The art of bonsai catching on with young crowd

by Noriko Miyoshi

Kyodo News

News photo
Modern-style bonsai are growing in popularity with young people.
Department store chain Isetan Co.'s Shinjuku flagship store has been selling various types of bonsai since last year, and they have proven popular with customers year-round."Although they are small, a sense of the season can be beautifully shown, for example, with a wax tree in fall or a pine tree on New Year's Day."Caring for them is not as troublesome as full-fledged gardening. The reason for their popularity may also lie in the fact that you can enjoy – the containers to put them in,” an Isetan official said.

For some people, though, buying a modern bonsai is not enough.

Four groups of women in their 20s and 30s took part in a bonsai-tending class at the Shinashina gardening shop in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward earlier this month.

The lesson was titled “Modern New Year’s Day.”

“Bonsai growers of the Edo Period (1600-1868) were artists and artisans who handed down the shogunate’s bonsai from generation to generation,” shop owner and modern bonsai creator Kenji Kobayashi, 35, explained as he taught the women how to mix the soil, untangle the roots, choose where to plant the seedling, and how to decorate it with moss and sand.

Many of the women said working with bonsai helped them ease stress.

Takae Sagawa, who lives in Yokohama, said, “I think the bonsai I made is pretty and I’m excited just thinking about where I’ll put it in the house.”

“Ornamental plants are beautiful, but I get tired of them because there is no sense of season. Bonsai is a traditional art that has continued for several hundred years and it should remain in our lives. I think young people, in their own modern way, are rediscovering Japan’s bonsai culture of enjoying the microcosm,” Kobayashi said.