National

Fifth-generation bonsai cultivator asks thieves to take good care of tiny trees they stole from him

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

A Japanese cultivator of bonsai trees has appealed for the thieves who made off with his expensive potted plants to take good care of them.

Seiji Iimura, a fifth-generation bonsai cultivator who runs the Kirakuen garden store in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, said Tuesday the seven tiny trees stolen from his premises were his “family treasures.”

“It’s something I would never sell even if I got ¥10 million ($90,000),” he said.

“Of course I hate the thief who stole them, but I want to tell him or her: please pour water on them and please take care of them,” Iimura said. “I would feel sad if they die.”

Iimura reported to police last month that seven bonsai trees, worth more than ¥7 million in total — including a 400-year-old gnarled juniper priced at some ¥6 million — had been stolen from his garden.

His wife Fuyumi wrote in a recent Facebook entry that the couple had raised the bonsai trees “like our children.”

“I am filled with sadness and heartache,” she wrote.

Iimura keeps some 3,000 miniature trees on display at the 5,000 square-meter (6,000 square-yard) garden, with only some available for sale, so that visitors can appreciate bonsai art.

Since the theft he has installed security cameras.

“You know, bonsai is nature in miniature. Looking at a bonsai tree is like walking into a deep mountain while staying at home,” Iimura said.

Bonsai is an Asian art form where small trees are sculpted. Bonsai trees often appear as if shaped by wind or the weight of snow. Sculpting them requires a delicate technique of chiselling branches to twist and pull them into shape, all the while battling to keep the tree alive.

Exported Japanese bonsai trees have become a hit overseas.

In 2018, Japan exported trees, bonsai and potted flowers worth about ¥12 billion, up from ¥4.5 billion about a decade ago, according to data published by the agriculture ministry.