Yoshida Bonseki, Hokkaido’s Premier Stone Collector
Hokkaido, the northern-most of the major islands in the Japanese archipelago, is known for its beautiful black Suiseki from the Kamuikotan region of the Ishikari River along with other scenic stones from mountainous regions and other rivers. Yoshida Yukihiro (1944-2012), one of the best-known stone collectors in Hokkaido, also promoted stones from this island in numerous publications in the Aiseki magazine. Yoshida Yukihiro adopted the artist name Yoshida Bonseki, a familiar name among Japanese stone enthusiasts.
Yoshida is regarded as one of the authorities on viewing stones due to his thoughts and interpretations of the natural stones found in his native area of western Hokkaido. He selected 32 stones from his collection and wrote a series of papers about the beauty and heart of these stones. Many of these stones had an abstract form. These articles displayed a sensitive interpretation of his favorite stones, a view not seen in many other books. A second series of three articles about the history of Kamuikotan stones contributed to their rise in popularity among stone enthusiasts throughout Japan. He also wrote 11 essays with various themes about his beloved stones including daiza making. These articles were assembled and republished in a book Ishi no bi to kokoro (The Beauty and Heart of Stones) two years after his death by the Aiseki Magazine company.
Yohsida Bonseki collected over 1000 stones in Hokkaido, mainly in the Kamuikotan region but also along the Toyoni, Sorachi, and Tomanu rivers. Many of these were smaller stones. He personally carved wood bases (daiza) for each of his stones and signed each of them. Because of his stature as the leading authority on Hokkaido stones and the quality of the stones he collected, his stones and bases have become highly desirable among Japanese stone connoisseurs. While his bases are not equal to those made by professional base carvers, they can be recognized by his signature on each base and its style. He and other wood carvers in Hokkaido preferred the native Tilia wood over harder imported woods. This basswood is easy to work, has a smooth grain, and can be stained to a darker finish.
Yoshida signed his bases in different ways, usually depending upon the size of the base. On larger bases (upper left) he carved his name “Yoshida” followed in the right column with the name “Tomanu Stone.” On smaller bases, he sometimes signed them with just “bonseki” as in the second figure (upper right). On other bases, he used his poetic name “Yoshida Bonseki” as illustrated in the third photograph. It appears that he used the name “Yoshida” or “Bonseki” or both together on his bases.