Is Yamadori too expensive?

A couple of years ago I was hanging on a rope over an 80 meter drop digging out this Year after a drive of 5 hours, a four mile walk into the hills and a very hard climb. The rain was lashing down and the dig was hard. Whilst hanging on the rope over a scary precipice, soaked to the skin and freezing cold I reflected on some recent posts on Internet bonsai forums. “Is yamadori too expensive?”.

I can only guess that those that pose this question have no idea on exactly what it takes to collect great material and make it available for others to create great bonsai. Would bonsaigirl* from Devon; make the effort to find the site, get permission, buy the gear, take a day off work, get a mate to help, get up at 5.00am drive five hours, walk in, rope up, climb down, dig for two hours suspended on a rope, carry back, pot up, establish for at least two years and have the expertise and recovery facilities to look after the tree over this period then sell for less than the cost of the fuel I somehow think not. Is yamadori too expensive? you decide.

Here are the roots after removing the rock and cleaning the duff away

Here are the roots after removing the rock and cleaning the duff away

*this is a made up person NOT a real poster

14 comments on “Is Yamadori too expensive?

  1. I’d just like to chime in with a bit of business experience (not bonsai related) behind me I understand the markets pretty well. The reason Yamadori are expensive, and will continue to be expensive regardless of how people feel about it, is because each Yamadori is not only completely unique but impossible to replicate due to the advanced age of many such specimens.

    Very fine specimens are extremely rare (such as many of the tree’s you have displayed on this website Tony) and are getting rarer each year as more amateurs unsuccessfully attempt to dig them out killing them in the process and therefore increasing the market value of Yamadoris as a whole. This process will only continue and the price of Yamadori will only go up in the EU as the market is still in its infancy stages. There is no possible way to enter the market with field grown stock when you are competing with material that is 50+ years old.

    Don’t feel as though you have to explain Tony, set your prices and frankly you won’t have any problem selling although there will be plenty of dreamers wishing they could get your tree’s for next to nothing, I can tell you that high quality Yamadori’s are as sound an investment as a Rolls Royce.


    • Royce you make valid points, I have stood in fields of pines that stretch to the horizon, with millions of trees suitable for bonsai with the result that Yamadori pines have flooded the market and prices have come down. I also grow from cutting and nursery stock and air layers, Watch this space.


  2. Hi Tony,

    I understand both points of views… there is a lot of material on the market with very different quality. Most of the time quality material is not easy to find and not easy to dig out… but also that is not always the truth.

    I think it comes down to the market (as Kobayashi/you said earlier). Is very good material worth a lot of money? Probably yes, because it is rare. But does the market pay that money? Some do, others don´t. And then it´s up to the seller if he want´s to drop the price or not.

    In Portugal paying hundreds of € for a Yamadori is considered too expensive while in the northern parts of Europe these trees would be a bargain… But the money available in those regions is very different too.

    Then a enthusiast who is starting and has 40+ years time to care or define a tree is more likely to pay less for good material. A more mature person whith the experience knowing that good material is not easy to find and takes a lot of time… probably his/her bills are also already paid (house, car etc.) and therefore they value more good material.

    It shouldn´t be a capitalist business, BUT if there is market why not?!


  3. to add my ha’penny to an excellent thread…..I think yamadori need a totally different pricing structure to that of a mature bonsai as the level of work undertaken is minuscule in comparison. Mother nature grows the tree, a collector secures it for themselves and after 2 or 3 years sells it – their input is at most usually 3 yrs of gentle aftercare. An imported (or not) mature bonsai will have had 30 – 70 years of human labour involved be it collection or propogation, field growing and ‘bonsai’ pruning, lifting, potting, root reduction, styling, further detailed styling and then potentially refinement. It is common for many different individuals to undertake these tasks and it is very common for the refinement alone to take 10 years of detailed and skilled work. By my reckoning a merely collected and potted tree has a value a 10th of that of a show worthy refined bonsai – but how to value the yamadori as a piece of material?? – is it worth 10 times the asking price when made into a refined bonsai…if so buy it ! I do see yamadori priced exactly the same as equivalent refined trees – those are potentially overpriced hence why they do not sell, either at all, or for a fraction of the displayed price a few years down the line. I’m not anti yamadori btw…far from it and have once given a 4 figure sum for a totally ancient and unique piece of material from the Alps, but with a little luck the finished tree stands a chance of being the finest example of its kind in Europe in 10-12 years time, so that is the level of material i deem worth £1500+. I measure all asking prices against this tree and lots do appear a little expensive for what they are


  4. With that effort and time, I’d be collecting in Spain or France! Lets face it, I’m sure that’s not what you have to go through with all your tree’s, if so I’d say you’re in the wrong profession 😉 I’m equally not saying that collecting and keeping yamadori does not require effort and time because it does and i say this because i collect myself but the part of the ‘story’ you have chosen to tell is far from reality. Sorry mate!


    • Hi Mike… you said it buddy effort and time. and no I do not have to go through that with all the trees I collect. But at that time, on the cliff edge it was kinda true.


  5. When you put it this way, no, it might not be.
    Your reasoning, however, is not entirely accurate/honest. It contains some flaws that have a negative impact on the price. Or positive if you’re the seller. 😉
    For example: buying the gear. You don’t buy the complete gear for each and every yamadori you dig out. You buy it once and dig, say, 100 trees before you have to replace it. Same with the fuel. You don’t have to travel to and fro for every single tree. You rationalize: dig out more than one tree on one trip. Dig closer to home: you don’t have to go to the mountains of Japan, if I exaggerate a little. So this also cuts down on waking up (too) early. Moreover, you don’t have to take a day off for every tree. You don’t have to take the day off at all: do it on the weekend! While getting a mate to help could be a problem, once you get them, they probably won’t charge you for the job. Not if they’re real mates. Taking care of the tree until it’s established doesn’t take much more than putting it in the shady place and watering it. Once you do that to one specimen, taking care of the other doesn’t double the “cost” (i.e. time). You just direct the hose a little to the left 😉 for a couple of seconds.
    Bottom line: I couldn’t decide if yamadory cost too much, but I sense quite a bit of marketing (with a negative connotation!) in your post. You must be turning (heavy) pro. 😉


    • Wow you make Yamadori collecting sound so easy, so why is everyone not going out and collecting their own trees?… also given the effort would YOU do it Mark?, you are also assuming that many trees are collected with every trip… sometimes NO trees are found. that’s all I am saying…


      • I don’t know, Tony. Perhaps I would. It’d have to be a stunning specimen, though.
        I’m not claiming that trees are found/collected every time. But on the average – number of trees collected per trip – it should be more than one. Otherwise it would appear that your argument stands. But that could be due to YOUR (or any other guys’) inefficiency and not necessarily a general case.
        Which reminds me of the following. Judging from the information on the Internets, there are quite a few places where you can chose from several thousands of yamadoris collected by collecting professionals. They surely collect more than one tree on average per trip. Perhaps you should take time and browse those, instead of what you described above.


      • Hi Mark, you are correct there are lots of places you can buy Yamadori… and in the main the trees are not worth the money… because they are crap. But GOOD yamadori commands a high price… why? because it is rare.


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