Bonsai (盆栽) are potted miniature trees which are carefully styled to achieve an aesthetic effect. The concept was first imported into Japan from China more than a thousand years ago. Since then, a distinctive style of this art form has been developed in Japan.
Typical trees used in bonsai include those with needled leaves such as pine trees (matsu), with broader leaves such as maple trees (momiji), with flowers such as cherry trees (sakura), and with fruits such as quince trees (karin). Some art pieces also use grass as the subject.
Some trees purposely feature white colored, dead parts without bark to represent the struggle of a tree in nature. A partially dead trunk is called shari, while a partially dead branch is known as jin.
Where to see Bonsai
One of the best places to see bonsai is the Omiya Bonsai Village in Saitama, just north of Tokyo. The village is a collection of bonsai nurseries that relocated there from Tokyo after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The village also has an excellent Bonsai Art Museum which explains well the various aspects of bonsai.
Another excellent area to see and purchase bonsai is the Kinashi Bonsai Village in the outskirts of Takamatsu. Get off at the rural Kinashi Station, a seven minute ride by local train from Takamatsu Station in direction of Okayama. Kinashi is a leading producer of pine trees used for bonsai as well as actual pine bonsai pieces. Over 30 nurseries are located in the rural surroundings of the station.