"Dwarf Trees" from Marie Carmichael Stopes'
A Journal From Japan

         Marie Carmichael Stopes, D.Sc., Ph.D., F.L.S.  (1880-1958) was a paleobotanist who was in Japan from August 6, 1907 through January 24, 1909.  She visited coal mines throughout the islands and collected fossils which she then cut into slide specimens at the University of Tokyo.   (The capital had a population of about two million at the time.)  She made several excursions around the countryside also by foot or bicycle and/or train, observing and poetically noting the traditional Japanese culture which was beginning to fade with the adoption of European clothes, food, decorations, and customs.  She rented a few different traditional Japanese homes during her stay.  Often her evenings were involved with the garden parties and dinners held at the various foreign consulates.  She kept up a bit of correspondence with persons in Europe and was interviewed several times by Japanese journalists, being the first woman professor apparently to visit the nation.  With Jôji Sakurai she authored the 1913 Plays of Old Japan: The 'Nô.'    Her 1918 book Married Love generated much correspondence showing the need for sex-education information.  In 1920 her book Radiant Motherhood was published and the following year she would found The Mothers' Clinic for Constructive Birth Control in London, the first British birth-control clinic.  The Marie Stopes International organization today provides reproductive health information worldwide.

Marie C. Stopes

      A Journal From Japan: A Daily Record of Life as Seen by a Scientist (1910):

        "[October 8, 1907, ...]  From my [hotel] room [near the gardens of Koraku-en] I could look down from the verandah on to two little gardens, with dwarf trees and green paths and grey stepping-stones leading to imaginary distances."  (pg. 39)

        "[November 22, Count Okuma, reported to be the second greatest statesman in the country,] is the Chamberlain of Japan in one sense, and has the finest orchid houses in the country.  They were very beautiful, but not on the same scale as with us.  The Japanese landscape garden is the chief glory of his place.  He has also a fine collection of dwarf trees, and I watched one of his gardeners pruning a mighty forest of pines three inches high, growing on a headland jutting out to sea in a porcelain dish."  (pg. 71)

      "[November 26, ...]  At two o'clock I went to see the Marquis and Marchioness N -----, who have a fine house and garden in the centre of [Tokyo] near the [Imperial] palace.  They were very kind and showed me over the houses and garden, the former in European style, rich, but not quite aesthetic, the latter in Japanese style, with dwarf trees and quaint cut bushes, placed with an eye to effect..."  (pg. 73)

      "[January 1, 1908,...]  I had a present from one of the men at the Institute of a dear little dwarf plum tree, with sweet-smelling pink blossoms, which scented the room.  There is not a sign of a leaf on the little tree, which is now covered with blossom."  (pg. 85)

      "[March 1,...]  They gave me a lovely granite hill with clustering rosy flowers growing round its base -- all 6 inches square -- and [my landlady and I] admired together the wet pine leaves in the garden."  (pg. 110)

      "[March 10, spending all day in bed because I felt so seedy...] ;  Then I had also a little tree, shaped like a weeping-willow, but one mass of rosy pink plum blossom, some flowers wide open, with recurved petals and a flare of silver stamens, others in perfectly round crimson buds, alluring as only roundness can be. 
      "Till 3 o'clock in the afternoon that tree and the [lovely golden lights of the unstained or unpainted bare] wood [of my house] made me blissfully happy..."  (pp. 114-115)

      "[April 11, in the new house] I have the few chairs and the table and cabinet I had for the last house, and with a lovely brilliant blue cloisonné vase on an ebony stand, a dwarf pine tree, and a bunch of white cherry flowers in the tokonomo, my room looks like an aesthetic dream, with its cream walls, cream floors, and wooden trellis-work with white paper windows."  (pp. 137-138)

        "[May 10, while visiting various gardens in the south part of Tokyo, one garden had all manner of the celebrated Buton flowers (paeonies).]  In the same garden were also a number of dwarf trees -- now I have bought several at various times, and was always astonished at the cheapness and prettiness, but here, a very (to me) inartistic one cost £4, and the only one I really liked was £9!"  (pg. 155)

         "[July 19, they went to about a dozen gardens in a part of the town near Oyeno Park to see the huge brilliant 'Morning Glories' specially cultivated there.]   In some of the gardens there are many other beautiful things to be seen, one in particular was almost like a museum of precious things.  There were open rooms in it, with the flowers arranged according to the best artistic styles, with valuable dwarf trees and curios placed beside them; there were three old kakemonos [vertical scrolls] I should have loved to possess.  In this garden also was a wonderful collection of landscape stones, arranged as islands on flat porcelain trays filled with water.  It was indeed a case of bringing the mountain to Mahomet -- perfect rocky scenes, with gleaming waterfalls made by streaks of white quartz.  The innumerable lovely stones -- from an inch to a foot high -- represented perfectly, enchantingly, all types of grand, beautiful, natural scenery.  The one I liked best was (even in Japanese things my fancy usually hits on the most expensive) just a thousand yen in price!
         "...This is the first nursery garden I have been in that seems to be the creation of an old artistic Japanese, it was indeed charming."  (pp. 190-191)

            "[September 12, spending a quiet and feverish day in my room]...  The window-ledge is inside the room (not outside in our mad Western way), and on it stands a low grey-green dish in which is growing a graceful spraying plant beside a gnarled grey stone that looks like a piece of a  forest rock...  [In the tokonoma recess, a yard deep and two yards long and nearly as high as the room, there is one long kakemono scroll, and] below it to the one side a stand of ebony, with a brilliant blue cloisonné vase round the slender stem of which curls a fiery dragon, and its colour is living and gleams against the brown.  Then on the other side grows a little bent and twisted tree, in a flat earthenware bowl, and in the corner stands my sword."  (pp. 219-220)

            "October 4. -- Went to Omori and walked on to the temple on the hill beyond.  Its green groves and quietness were very peaceful and lovely.  It is almost woodland there, and there are few people.  In the temple grove was a scarlet high pagoda, which gleamed between the stately trees.  The spot is so peaceful and sweet and I was so tired of working that the day was very pleasant.  We collected moss, and some little stones covered with it, and I had five Cryptomeria seedlings to make a forest, and with them I made a miniature landscape in a flat earthenware dish when I returned home -- but it isn't half as easy as it looks!"  (pp. 223-224)  

            "October 25. -- In the afternoon I went to tea with Professor F----- and met Professor R----- from Russia, and others.  We taught Professor R----- to use chopsticks, and we examined dwarf trees, of which Professor F----- has some beautiful specimens.  In a room in which dwarf trees are displayed everything must be specially simple and dignified.  If the tree is not in the tokonomo [sic] , for instance, the screen behind it must be white, pure white, not even flecked with gold-dust.  And when one sees it arranged rightly, one realises the true rightness of it, and the beauty seems to stand out clearly, with the outline of the tree against the background of white.  I love more and more the simple culture of the old style Japanese when in harmonious surroundings.  Though they have quite lovely and valuable dwarf trees in Kew [THE garden in London], they are lost in the greenhouse with all the other things ; the rays and suggestions from the other plants around them intermingle and conflict, till they produce a grey haze of mist in which the spirit of beauty envelops herself and is invisible ; but if you place but one of those trees in the right place, she steals out and is radiant before you." (pg. 229)   1


1       Stopes, Marie C.  A Journal From Japan (London: Blackie & Son, Limited; 1910).  Portrait of the author from the Frontispiece.  The particular copy RJB read was courtesy of the Arizona State University Library in Tempe, AZ through InterLibrary Loan.   As I had to carefully tear open eleven pairs of pages from different places in the book (which had not been cut apart when the book was manufactured) in order to read the entire work, it was humbling yet slightly dismaying to realize that this particular copy had thus lain upon the shelves for 94 years without being entirely read by anyone else.
       This reference was brought to my attention in "An Informal History of Bonsai" by Charles R. Long, Arnoldia, Jamaica Plain, MA: Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, 1971, 31:267, which only has the last line of the Count Okuma quote (from Nov. 22, 1907) and mention of  "'a little bent and twisted tree' which grew in 'a flat earthenware bowl.'" quote (from Oct. 4, 1908).

       Now digitalized here.

       Also, The People's Chronology by James Trager, New York: Henry Holt and Company, revised 1994 edition, pg. 750.

       Per Hotta-Lister, Ayako  The Japan-British Exhibition of 1910, Gateway to the Island Empire of the East (Richmond, Surrey: Japan Library; 1999), pg. 104, "In the second week of August, Dr. Marie C. Stopes, who had been in Japan in 1907 to study the fossils of cretaceous [sic] plants found in Japan, and who had her own exhibits at the Exhibition, consisting of those fossils which he had collected in Japan, visited the Exhibition and gave a lecture in its science section on 'The Cretaceous Deposits of Japan.'  In the March of that year she had published Journal From Japan, a diary of her travels in Japan.  After the lecture, she visited the Ainu village and commented with delight that she felt as though she had been back in Japan, saying 'You could study these people here almost as well as if you were in their native country.'"

         See also Okuma in Clark, Clarke, and Jerningham.

       The October 4 listing above is the earliest we are aware of that a Western visitor to Japan reported actually having assembled a miniature landscape while there, although DuCane's book was published in 1908 and may reflect experiences just prior to Stopes'.  It is not noted what ever became of this or the other dwarf potted trees she had in her possession upon her departure.  It is assumed that these all remained in Japan.

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