A History Of The NABF

The North America Bonsai Federation (NABF) was formed in 1989 by American bonsai master John Naka of California and legal advisor Ted Tsukiyama of Hawaii to represent the North American region in the World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF). WBFF also was officially formed in 1989 by Japanese bonsai master Saburo Kato with the aid of Mr. Tsukiyama as legal consultant. Mr. Kato became the first Chairman of WBFF, and Mr. Naka became the first President of NABF (and the North American Region's representative delegate to WBFF) as well as WBFF's first Vice-Chairman.

The catalyst for the creation of WBFF was Expo '70 held in 1970 in Osaka, Japan. During this World's Fair, the efforts and unity of the Japanese bonsai community, including Saburo Kato's noble precept of "World Peace Through Bonsai," impressed the world and initiated the international bonsai movement. As explained in the preface to a commemorative album of the bonsai displayed at Exp '70: "Through this exhibition the government [of Japan] introduced the art of Bonsai to the world and, it can be argued, initiated a world-wide boom in interest in Bonsai."

The first Editor of NABF publications was David Fukumoto, who wrote a detailed history of NABF's creation and early activities.

WBFF's Bylaws divide the world into 9 regions, one of which is North America, and require each region to have a regional organization represent it on the WBFF Board of Directors. Because in 1989 there were so many existing bonsai organizations in North America with various purposes, it was decided to form NABF as a limited-purpose organization primarily to serve as a liaison between WBFF and the existing bonsai organizations in North America.

WBFF's North American Region originally included Canada, the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. However, with deference to their languages differences, the WBFF Bylaws were later amended to place Mexico and the Caribbean in the Latin American Region. Hence, since 2007 the North American Region represented by NABF has included only Canada and the United States. Nevertheless, NABF welcomes residents of the Spanish-speaking countries within North America to participate in all of NABF's activities.

John Naka served as NABF's first President and WBFF's Vice-Chairman from 1989 through 2001. During that period, the first 4 WBFF World Bonsai Conventions were held: 1st in Omiya, Japan (1989); 2nd in Orlando, Florida (1993); 3rd in Seoul, Korea (1997); and 4th in Munich, Germany (2001). For the 2nd World Bonsai Convention, which was the first such convention in North America, NABF joined forces with Bonsai Clubs International and Bonsai Societies of Florida to present a highly successful bonsai event that helped raise the interest in and appreciation of the art of bonsai in North America.

During the 4th World Bonsai Convention in Munich in 2001, the North American Region was again selected to host a World Bonsai Convention, this time for the 5th World Bonsai Convention to be held in Washington, DC in 2005. In addition, the WBFF Bylaws were amended in 2001 to pass the chairmanship of WBFF to the president of the regional organization selected to host the next World Bonsai Convention, so from that time forward the WBFF chairmanship has rotated very 4 years. Also in 2001, John Naka retired as NABF President, and was succeeded by Felix Laughlin, who also became the WBFF Chairman from 2001 to 2005. Saburo Kato became Honorary Chairman of WBFF and Daizo Iwasaki became WBFF Vice-Chairman.


Given the challenges of assuring a successful World Bonsai Convention in North America in 2005, NABF invited the National Bonsai Foundation, BCI, ABS and the Potomac Bonsai Society to co-host the event. NABF also brought together an able team of officers, advisors and editors to energize the North American bonsai community primarily through NABF's website. These officers, advisors and editors included John Naka and Marybel Balendonck from California, Ted Tsukiyama and David Fukumoto from Hawaii, Andy Rutledge from Texas, Chase Rosade from Pennsylvania, Roger Case from New Mexico, Harold Harvey from Florida, George Heffelfinger (then President of the American Bonsai Society) from Canada, and Alan Walker (then President of Bonsai Clubs International) from Louisiana. During this period, NABF created and hosted a joint WBFF/NABF website that included both WBFF and NABF information. For the NABF section of the website, there were editors from each of the following regions: South-East U.S.; North-East U.S.; South-Central U.S.; North-Central U.S.; West U.S. (including Hawaii); North-West U.S.; Canada (including Alaska); and the Caribbean area.

During the 5th World Bonsai Convention in Washington, DC in 2005, the Latin American Region was selected as the regional host for the 6th World Bonsai Convention to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2009. Therefore, at the end of the 5th World Bonsai Convention, Solita Rosade, as President of the Latin American Bonsai Federation, succeeded Felix Laughlin as WBFF Chairman, serving in that role from 2005 to 2009. Also in 2005, Chase Rosade succeeded Mr. Laughlin as President of NABF.

During the 6th World Bonsai Convention in San Juan in 2009, the China Region was selected as the regional host for the 7th World Bonsai Convention to be held in Jin Tan, China in 2013. Hu Yun Hua succeeded Solita Rosade as the WBFF Chairman for the period 2009 to 2013. In 2011, Chase Rosade resigned as President of NABF and was succeeded by Solita Rosade.

Membership in NABF originally was limited to bonsai organizations in North America, including Bonsai Clubs International, the American Bonsai Society, regional organizations that coordinate the activities of local clubs, and non-profit organizations affiliated with public bonsai collections. IN 2012, however, under the leadership of Solita Rosade, NABF Bylaws were revised to open up membership to all individuals and organizations wishing to support the art of bonsai in North America.

Since its and WBFF's creation in 1989, NABF has followed in the footsteps of its founder John Y. Naka who fervently believed in Saburo Kato's dream of a world made more peaceful through bonsai. With NABF's dedication and support, WBFF has helped to expand the international bonsai movement into almost every corner of the globe. During the past two decades, the level of bonsai artistry within Canada and the United States has risen substantially, and an even greater mastery is likely in the future as more young practitioners from North America go to study bonsai and penjing in Japan and China so they can be better teachers back home.

With two magnificent countries united and forming the great North American bonsai family, NABF will continue to work closely with Bonsai Clubs International, the American Bonsai Society, the National Bonsai Foundation and other North American bonsai organizations to strengthen the art of bonsai in North America. Through its website and its worldwide WBFF network, NABF is committed to keeping the torch of peace burning, and fostering for this and future generations the highest level of beauty and perfection for North American bonsai and the related arts.

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