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26. Jun 2022

Hokkaido Trivia – Hokkaido’s Prefectural Tree and Bonsai

I visited Bonsai-cho (Bonsai district) and their Museum in Saitama City the other day.  Saitama City is located in the outskirts of Tokyo, about 30 minutes train ride. 

Bonsai is a Japanese art of planting and growing a dwarf tree in a pot.  Bonsai came into Japan from China in the Heian era (8-12 century) and today it’s become one of Japan’s art of gardening with fans in and out the country.

Today, Ezo-matsu (“spruce” in English, a coniferous evergreen tree), that habitats in Hokkaido and Kuril Islands, is popularly used in Bonsai.  The textures of the trunk/branches and the small deep green fine needle-like leaves, which cannot be found in other pine trees, are greatly valued. 

But in bonsai’s long history, spruce was never used because of the extreme difficulty in growing this artic tree.  It was only in the 1920’s that the gardeners in Bonsai-cho, who realized the beauty of the tree, brought spruce into Bonsai after much effort and enthusiasm.  Bonsai-cho, then, gained the popularity and fame and brought in many foreign celebrities to the area spreading the art of Bonsai.  In addition, with the international events held in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Bonsai became widely known to the world.  Would it be a brag to say it all started from Hokkaido’s Ezo-matsu? 😊

If you are to come to Saitama area, include visiting the Bonsai district in your activity!