Some time ago I wrote an article on Japan’s natural arts featuring amongst others the art of bonsai. As some readers appeared to be bonsai enthusiasts I just could not wait any longer to also write about the small bonsai paradise north of Tokyo, Omiya.
Omiya Bonsai Village, as this neighbourhood on the north side of Saitama City’s Omiya Park is known, dates back to 1925. Considering the long history of bonsai, it would be fair to state that Omiya is quite young. The reason for this is the town was settled after the Great Kanto Earthquake two years earlier, as many of the nurseries and private homes moved out of Tokyo’s Hongō district after sustaining lots of damage in the quake. They chose to come to Omiya for its clean water, availability of land and favourable soil for their profession. Some of these nurseries and homes have opened their doors to the public.
Before going into the nurseries and homes open to visitors, our first stop should be the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, which opened in 2010. Here all you want about the art and how to appreciate every aspect of it can easily be learned with the help of audio guides and descriptions in English. The museum also exhibits various styles and settings in which bonsai can be found. The admission for the museum is just 300 yen for adults, with discounted fees for children, students and seniors. At the museum, you will also find some complimentary booklets and maps of the neighbourhood’s nurseries and homes you can visit.
Exploring the Bonsai Village
Now that we are educated and geared up to admire Omiya’s beautiful bonsai let us look into a few nurseries found along the town’s main streets. Feel free to ask the nursery owners any questions you might have–some of them understand and speak English quite well and greatly appreciate your interest in their art. However, be aware that generally taking pictures is not allowed so please ask the owners before doing so.
Mansei-en is the first bonsai home we come across after exiting the museum. The home has been owned by generations of the Kato family and displays the oldest bonsai in the world, a juniper over 2000 years old. Next is Toju-en, a small nursery further down the road, which offers bonsai classes during the weekends as well as dozens of fine bonsai for sale. Seikou-en is considered a must-visit by a lot of enthusiasts even though there is a small admission fee. The garden displays one of the most beautiful collections in Omiya. Here we can also take a moment to observe Saika Bonsai, meaning colourful flower bonsai. This modern concept is a cross-over between ikebana and bonsai, and as such combines trees, flowers and pots thought of by the owner Kaori Yamada.
|Name:||Omiya Bonsai Village (大宮盆栽村)|
|Address:||2-24-3 Toro-cho, Kita-ku, Saitama City
|Opening hours:||9:00-16:30 for the Museum|
|Admission Fee:||300 Yen for the Museum, but most nurseries are free to enter|