Omiya Bonsai Village
Some time ago I wrote an article on Japan’s natural arts featuring amongst others the art of bonsai. As some of our 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 neighborhood 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 favorable 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 visiters, your first stop should be the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, which opened in 2010. Here you can learn all you want about the art of bonsai and how to appreciate every aspect of it 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 neighborhood’s nurseries and homes you can visit.
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 you will 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 you can also observe Saika Bonsai, meaning colorful 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.
Directions and Days Closed
Omiya Bonsai Village is accessible by train through Toro station on the JR Utsunomiya Line from Ueno as well as Omiya-Koen station on the Tobu Noda line from Tokyo. The train ride will take about 30 to 50 minutes. The nurseries and museums are closed on Thursdays and from December 29th to January 3rd. From May 3rd to 5th there is also a festival in the town, which is known to attract many enthusiasts from all corners of Japan and abroad.