Special branch: Poignant plea after Japanese bonsai burglary

Japanese couple whose bonsai trees were stolen appeal for the thieves to water and take good care of them because ‘they are like our children’

  • Seven tiny trees stolen from the home of the curator of the Kawaguchi garden
  • Seiji Iimura pleaded for the tiny trees to be taken good care of by the thieves 
  • His wife, Fuyumi, wrote on Facebook that bonsai trees were ‘like our children’
  • Haul of bonsai trees worth around $118,000, with one tree alone worth $90,000 

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

Seiji Iimura, a fifth-generation bonsai cultivator who runs a garden in Kawaguchi, north of Tokyo, said today the seven tiny trees stolen from his garden were his ‘family treasure’.

His wife, Fuyumi, wrote on social media that the miniature trees were ‘like our children’. 

The haul of bonsai trees could be worth a total of around $118,000 (13 million yen), with one tree alone worth $90,000, Iimura said. 

Bonsai trees, such as this one pictured, can be worth millions of yen (file photo)

It is thought the potted plants, which are regarded as some of the most exquisite in existence, were stolen over the course of seven nights. 

Iimura reported to police last month that the seven bonsai trees, including a 400-year-old gnarled juniper worth 10 million yen ($90,000) alone – had been stolen from his garden. 

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‘It’s something I would never sell even if I got 10 million yen ($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.

‘They can live forever – even after we’re gone, if they receive the proper care.’ 

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

One of the bonzai trees stolen was worth as much as $90,000 (file photo) 

‘I am filled with sadness and heartache,’ she wrote.

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

Despite the garden being so well-known, the couple did not hide their prized bonsai an allowed the public to freely viewed them.

The Iimuras also did not implement and restrictive security measures, according to the Asahi Shimbun Japanese newspaper.  

‘An individual well-versed in bonsai must have been involved in the theft’, Mr Iimura told the newspaper. 

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.

The bonsai master’s family have been cultivating bonsai since the Edo period, which ended in 1868.

Bonsai is a Asian art form of sculpting small trees.

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 about 12 billion yen worth of trees, bonsai and potted flowers, up from 4.5 billion yen about a decade ago, according to data published by the agriculture ministry.

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