Publication Date: Wednesday Jan 31, 2001
Kenneth Iwatoki Sugimoto, Palo Alto Bonsai Master
Kenneth Iwatoki Sugimoto, a renowned Bonsai Master who was instrumental in introducing the Japanese art of Bonsai to the United States, died of natural causes Jan. 19. He was 93 years old.
Sugimoto was born in Hiroshima, Japan and came to the U.S. at the age of 16. After the internment years, Ken settled with his family in Lodi.
When he moved to Palo Alto in 1951, he opened the first Bonsai retail nursery in the U.S. He also started the Peninsula Bonsai Club, the oldest of its kind in the country. For the past 47 years, an annual Bonsai exhibit has been sponsored by the club on Mother's Day and held at the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple.
People from all over the world visited Sugimoto's studio in Palo Alto, and many Japanese Bonsai Masters came to California to learn his method. He lectured on Bonsais and displayed his art at many cultural events.
His philosophy consisted of the idea that art and nature are one, and he envisioned himself as part of nature when he created. His Bonsai revealed aspects of natural settings. Whether his subject ws a pine growing from a crevice of a boulder or a coastline cypress shaped by severe wind, he combined the spirit of nature with the serenity of a tea garden.
He is survived by his wife of more than 70 years, Kinuyo Sugimoto; two sons, Tak Sugimoto of Palo Alto and Lou Sugimoto of Saratoga; daughter Jude Noda of Denver, Colo.; and six grandchildren.