Mambonsai (マン盆栽) are an... um... unconventional modern form of bonsai pioneered by Paradise Yamamoto (パラダイス山元), not to be confused with unconventional author Banana Yoshimoto. Yamamoto himself defines Mambonsai as:
枝振りの悪いフツーの盆栽に、フィギュアを絡ませただけのインチ な藝術。

Fishy art that only combines figures with regular bonsais of a bad quality.

"Figures" here refers to miniatures of people, of the kind popular with with model railroad enthusiasts. In other words, Yamamoto crafts amateur bonsai crawling with people, creating tiny dioramas. A few examples (quotes taken from Yamamoto's own descriptions in wonderfully fractured English):

Until the End of the World

A gray VW Beetle parked under a bonsai keyaki tree, couple standing outside, the man peering off into the distance with binoculars.
Lady Underneath the Keyaki Tree
A woman undressing under a tree. Quoth Yamamoto: "Although you think no one is watching, Big Brother is watching you! So who is watching you? Of course, God is watching. He he he he."
Mambocism Co-Op Ranch
Mossy green Zen garden with black and white Holstein cows.
Outdoor Amateur Nude Sketch Scenery
Naked women being painted (as in, paintbrushes applied to their bodies) while a TV crew films. "The good thing about Mambonsai is that nobody will tell you anything about putting in long titles such as this."
Yes, Yamamoto is a middle-aged man who likes naked models, even if they are pewter and slightly over an inch tall. A picture would be worth a thousand words, but alas, the existing websites on the subject (see references) seem to be very low on the pictorial content.

Issues of nudity aside (what was the last time you saw a bonsai exhibition featuring oral sex?), Yamamoto's Mambonsai have been a cult hit in Japan, his work has been showcased in Shibuya's department stores and displayed on TV. He has to date published three photographic compilations of mambonsai, and they seem to be selling well; one has recently been rereleased in an affordable softcover version. No surprise, really, because as the highly scientific diagrams at the end of his books clearly demonstrate, Mambonsai are hip, light, sexy, moist and portable while traditional bonsai are snobbish, heavy, unsexy, dry and immobile.

Despite his books being bilingual, with text in both Japanese and English, they don't seem to have garnered much attention overseas; I suspect it is only a matter of time, especially given the last Secret Commandment of Mambonsai:

  • Thou shalt show them especially to your foreign friends, and spread Mambonsai around the world.
And if you're still wondering why they're called Mambonsai, another commandment might help:
  • Thou shalt make them listen to mambo every day.

The Mambonsai / ザ・マン盆栽, Geibunsha/芸文社 1999 (Paradise Yamamoto's home page)

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