Pathway to Zen

January 15, 2022

I have written before about the suiseki that was given to Mas by his teacher, Mr. Hirotsu.  It is not a stone that immediately strikes the eye but instead rewards long, quiet, contemplation.  As I’ve related, Mas said he did not understand the stone at all when Mr. Hirotsu gave it to him. Over many years he came to realize that Hirotsu-sensei had been trying to lead him, through this suiseki, to the world of Zen.

Note: click on any photo to go to a gallery with additional images

“Pathway to Zen”; 7″ x 4.5″ x 5″; Keiseki Hirotsu
“Daruma”; 6″ x 4.5″ x 6″; Mas Nakajima

Mas could certainly appreciate dramatic stones and even enjoyed a bit of “bling”, but always it was the spiritual depths of quiet and subtle suiseki that drew him. This can perhaps be felt in the stone he called “Daruma”. Like the one from Mr. Hirotsu, it has depths waiting to be explored.

This past summer I joined a few friends for a collecting trip around Northern California.  I was not planning to collect any stones for myself but was there to enjoy time with friends and to help guide the group to collecting locations. One of the stops was, of course, a place on the Klamath River, deep in the Klamath Mountains of Northern California, where Mas and I loved to collect.

I chose a beautiful spot with a view of the river and scattered some of Mas’ ashes. Almost immediately I looked down, and found a very beautiful little stone, which reminded me of the one from Mr. Hirotsu.

Our good friends Tan-Phat Vo and Lisa Vole were also along on the trip. Phat had learned from Mas the craft of carving daiza and we had all spent much time over the years discussing the art and spirit of suiseki. At lunch I handed my little stone to Phat and asked him if he thought he could make a daiza for it, to which request he very generously agreed.

Recently Phat and Lisa paid a visit to California and brought me the finished suiseki. I had forgotten how beautiful the stone was – and now, finished as a suiseki in Phat’s exquisite daiza, it is sublime.

“Gateway to Zen”; 4″ x 2″ x 5″; Tan-Phat Vo

It gives me such joy to live with this trinity of stones from Mas, his teacher, and his student. I can only hope that someday I too will be able to glimpse that spiritual realm to which these suiseki lead.

E-book Now Available

May 4, 2021

Sam Edge and I are pleased to announce that “The Suiseki Art of Mas Nakajima” is now available as a downloadable PDF which can be purchased directly from Sam as noted below.

  • This is an electronic copy of the entire book
  • It is a 40 MB PDF with page size of 12.5 x 10.62 inches
  • The PDF is view only – no printing is allowed.
  • You may view the book in 1-page or 2-page mode as desired.

E-book purchase information

To purchase the E-book, please send US $15 via PayPal Friends and Family to . Please add a note indicating that this is for the e-book.

Upon receipt of the payment you will be sent a link that will allow you to download the book.  This link will be active for a period of one week.  We request that you not share this link or PDF with other third parties.

We think you will enjoy this digital version of Mas’ incredible collection of suiseki.


Sam and Janet

Mas Nakajima Suiseki Sale

April 15, 2021

I am happy to announce a group of suiseki by Mas Nakajima are available for purchase.  The current catalog is available here: Mas Nakajima Suiseki Sale .

This catalog of stones for sale will be updated as items are sold, and additional stones will be added over time. A few suiseki with bases made by others are also included.

Please make note of the following information:

  • Some of the stones for sale are large and heavy, and thus the buyer will need to work with me to arrange for someone to pick up the stone (and if necessary, box and ship it to you). 
  • For smaller stones I will box and ship them. The shipping costs will be included in the payment due. 
  • Payment is by Paypal “friends and family”.  I will ship the suiseki to you after payment is received.
  • It might take some time for me to get it done, depending on circumstances.  But I promise we will be in regular communication!

Even if the perfect stone for you is not in this list, I hope you enjoy viewing them. Thank you for your consideration and enjoy! You can find contact information for me here:

New Suiseki Display in Oakland

March 16, 2021

I am so happy to be able to announce the completion of the new Suiseki Display, dedicated to the memory of Mas Nakajima, at the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt. We’ve been working on this project for the past year, through all the covid-related slow-downs, and we are pleased that it is to the point where we can officially show it off. Our plan is to rotate the display periodically, drawing upon suiseki in the BGLM permanent collection, and also stones on loan from our local Northern California suiseki community.

It is still a work-in-progress, and we still have things we need to do and things we will learn – which is of course all part of the joy. To any suiseki lover coming to Oakland, our Bonsai Garden now has one more reason for you to make sure it’s on your “must-see” list.

The Suiseki Art of Mas Nakajima

February 14, 2021

Dear Friends, Sam Edge and I at long last have published The Suiseki Art of Mas Nakajima. This book is dedicated to Mas’ memory and includes photographs of 63 of his most evocative Suiseki, along with remembrances from friends, family, and students. This has been a labor of love for us, with help from so many of our dear friends.

Some technical notes in case you are interested in purchasing the book: This is a large hardbound book (102 pages at 11″ x 13″ or 33 x 28 cm). It has an ImageWrap Matte casewrap with the cover design printed directly on the cover and the photos are printed on Mohawk proPhotoPearl paper (an archival paper that will hold true color for more than 80 years). Blurb will ship to many different countries, and offers volume discounts for orders of 10 or more books and occasional general discount promotions for smaller purchases.

Sam and I hope this book brings pleasure to our fellow suiseki enthusiasts and all those who loved Mas. All my very best, Janet

The Suiseki Art of Mas Nakajima
Book Preview

Mas Nakajima 1948-2018

October 23, 2018

For those readers who do not know, Mas died on September 10 in an accident in our garden.  I am sorry it has taken me so long to post this message, and that it will be so short – I know there will come a time when I can write more. I am so very grateful to everyone who has gathered around me, wrapping me in love, in the wake of Mas’ sudden death.

The eulogies given at the memorial service, and other letters I have received, voiced the love that so many people felt for Mas.  I will gather these words and post them here very soon.  I cannot express how much I miss him, each and every day. But it is also true that Mas is embedded in my heart and will be with me for the rest of my days.

Mas’ obituary is here: .


How to find a suiseki

June 8, 2017


Finding suiseki is hard. A stone that might have the potential to be good suiseki must be made of good quality material with appropriate weathering, surface textures, colors, and shape.  When you are standing by the river, it’s daunting to realize that only a handful of those millions of stones are worth even taking home.

The question is, how do you search? If you try to pick up every stone and examine it closely, you’ll exhaust yourself (and run out of daylight) long before you’ve looked at even a tiny fraction – and you might not find anything. Instead, we scan the stones we see as we walk along, looking for ones that show at least one characteristic that might be promising.  What we look for depends on the location.

Black Butte Lake is a place known for its high quality, colorful jaspers – yellows, reds, browns, and beautiful black. The problem is that most of the exposed stones are encrusted in dried, baked-on, algae and dirt, so you can’t see the type or color of material.

In this case Mas scans the stones looking for ones which might have a good shape and then looks at the bottom side. The bottom is protected from the algae and dirt, and is also usually wet. The surface of the stone will be visible and he can see the color and the quality of the stone material.

If the shape is interesting, with no recent breaks or cracks, and the stone has great quality and color, then he is happy to bring it home for further study. He doesn’t hunt for anything specific, like a particular shape or color (e.g. searching for a mountain stone or a red-and-yellow jasper), but just looks at each stone to learn what it has to say. He probably would not find any specific thing he was looking for, and focusing like that would also limit his chance to find and enjoy so many other stones.

It was just an accident, great luck, to find a heart-shaped jasper with a good size and such fantastic quality and color. Mas’ teacher, Mr. Hirotsu, once said that his advice to suiseki enthusiasts was to “Just enjoy” – and Mas and I re-learn that lesson every time we go collecting.


Click here to see a slideshow of other views.

Lady Murasaki

January 2, 2017

We are very honored to have one of Mas’ suiseki, Lady Murasaki, included in i-j4vg3gw-sthe permanent collection of the Oakland Museum of California.  This piece was previously part of their special exhibit,  Unearthed: Found + Made (during the 1st half of 2016).

When viewed from the conventional front (see the photo to the right), the stone is a classic suiseki, or landscape scene stone.  The word “murasaki” means purple, and the stone evokes the image of a graceful mountain, perhaps in the purple light of dusk. (Unfortunately, the photo does not show the true color which is a dark purple rather than black).

However, when viewed from the side the stone reveals the image of a lady with the dress and hairstyle of ancient Japan.  It particularly reminds us of the images of Murasaki Shikibu which have been painted over the centuries.


Tosa Mitsuoki illustration of Lady Murasaki writing.  c. late 17th C.

The Lady Murasaki (c. 973 – c. 1014) was the great writer of the Heian period in Japan (794-1185), and is one of the most important figures in Japanese and world literature.  She is known for her diary of court life, a book of poems, and most particularly for The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari), which is often referred to as the world’s first novel.

In addition to being a continuing subject of study by scholars of literature, Genji is read and enjoyed by people around the world in modern translations.

The Tale of Genji was something of a best-seller in its time.  New installments were eagerly awaited and even read to the emperor, with copies distributed throughout Japan. Within a century it had been recognized as a classic of Japanese literature. Lady Murasaki is one of the towering figures in human history, and she and her Tale of Genji have inspired readers, scholars, and artists worldwide for centuries.

This suiseki is our tribute to her, and we could not be more proud than to have it in the Oakland Museum.

Yosemite Falls

June 18, 2016


“Prayer (Yosemite Falls)”

This Suiseki Art sculpture, which Mas made back in about 2002, can be appreciated in many ways.  The stone is a classic waterfall stone, or taki-ishi, and especially evokes the image of Yosemite Falls.


Winter view of Yosemite Falls

Looked at another way, it seems to be two hands folded in prayer (perhaps to the Poloti, the witches that were believed by the Ahawahneechee to inhabit the pool at the bottom).

The base holding the stone is a Douglas Fir roof beam from a house that Mas had renovated.  He loves the feeling that the same beam that supported a family’s home also supports this suiseki.

Mas and I are fortunate to visit often at Yosemite National Park.  His favorite time to photograph the falls is early in the morning just as the sun starts to rise, when everything is quiet and he has it all to himself.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service – “America’s Best Idea”.  I hope everyone reading this has the opportunity to enjoy some of these incredible places which have been protected for everyone in the world.

We’ve collected a few of our favorite  pictures of Yosemite Falls – please click here to go the gallery of images.



Bay Island Bonsai 2016

February 1, 2016

Ever January, Mas is a guest artist at the Bay Island Bonsai exhibit at the Lakeside Garden Center in Oakland.  Boon Manakitivipart, our founder and teacher, gives Mas two six foot tables and no restrictions on what he can exhibit.  In this setting, surrounded by some of the finest bonsai in the country, Mas feels the freedom to experiment in ways that he can’t at our suiseki club exhibits. He often uses challenging stones or settings, which would not fit within a traditional suiseki display.  Instead of antique Japanese scrolls, Mas uses his own paintings to create the displays.

Mas and I found this stone in May of 2015.   We had gone up to the Eel River early in the morning, the day before a club collecting trip. The particular spot we went has some excellent stone material, but is not suitable for a large group.  It’s a small area and difficult to access, requiring a fairly steep, slippery, climb.  On that day neither of us was feeling good, and having climbed down with difficulty, the stone seemed large and heavy, and maybe not very attractive.

Once we got home though Mas couldn’t get this stone out of his mind, he didn’t want to just leave it.  It seemed like it might be one of those once-in-a-lifetime stones. So the next weekend we went back to get it.    Naturally we couldn’t remember where we had found it, and wasted the morning at a different location.  But luckily I had snapped a photo on my phone and, when I finally thought to check, the time-stamp told me right where to go.  So after a nice picnic lunch, we finally made it back.

This time we both felt much better, the climb down was actually fairly easy, as long as we could hold a rope to keep us from slipping on the dry grass, and the stone isn’t really all that big – Mas carried it easily in a backpack up the hill.

The human mind seems to naturally see images in abstract patterns such as clouds – and stones, turning abstract pieces into figurative sculptures.  When we first found this stone we immediately started calling it “The Mushroom”.  Then after getting it home and watching it for a few days, Mas pointed out that it really looks like a black pine bonsai.  After he set it upright we started seeing a dinosaur, or perhaps a “rising dragon”.  Several viewers at the BIB exhibit started calling it “E.T.”   As the stone ages over the next few years, and the black color on the neck starts to develop, I’ll be interested to see if other images emerge.

Click to see a gallery of past BIB displays.

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