Harry Hirao, our founding president
Kofu Bonsai Kai has been very fortunate to have Harry Hirao as its founding president. Harry was a respected bonsai master in the bonsai community, active in bonsai clubs locally and statewide. He was a nationally known and sought after bonsai master who taught classes and gave demonstrations throughout California and the United States.
His particular specialty was the California juniper, and fondly referred to as "Mr. California Juniper". Harry taught his students the art of collecting, styling, caring for, and exhibiting these priceless living bonsai masterpieces. Harry, past away in July 2015 and was 98 years old. Even into his 90s, Harry still went to the Sierra Nevada mountains in all but the hotest months of the year to collect prized specimens. Harry was born in Colorado and moved to Japan with his parents when he was 10 years old to care for his grandparents. A decade later Harry would return to the U.S. and would marry Chiyoko Alyce Yamamoto. Harry studied under John Naka and in 1977, he and his longtime friend, Larry Ragle formed Kofu Bonsai Kai in Orange County, California.
Harry Sensei (teacher) served in many capacities in the Golden State Bonsai Federation, and in the California Bonsai Society (the oldest Bonsai Club in the United States). In 1981, he was honored by Prince Takamatsu of Japan with an award of the "Ryoku Hakiju Yukosho" medal and by the Japanese Agricultural Society with a plaque for his contributions to the art of bonsai in the United States. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, U. S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. and has both stones and bonsai on display there.