A 400-year-old bonsai tree worth more than $50,000 vanished from a gardener’s collection outside Tokyo, one of several valuable plants stolen last month from a fifth-generation bonsai master.
Now the plant’s owners have a request for thieves: Please, water it.
That’s according to CNN, which spoke to Fuyumi Iimura, wife of bonsai master Seiji Iimura, whose garden sits in Japan’s Saitama Prefecture.
“We treated these miniature trees like our children,” Fuyumi Iimura told the network, adding: “I want whoever took the bonsais to make sure they are watered.”
The 400-year-old plant, a shimpaku tree, can’t make it a week without water, she said.
Seiji Iimura walked into his garden the morning of Jan. 13 before noticing four pots missing among his collection of about 3,000 bonsai trees, according to Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper.
Growing bonsais outdoors is standard, the newspaper reported, and Iimura, 54, kept his farm open to the public so bonsai fans could feel close to the exquisite and awe-inspiring trees.
Now the garden has cameras, though, the New York Times reported, and Iimura plans to soon install a fence. Maybe a siren. Police have had little luck finding the thieves.
On the black market, stolen bonsai can sell for the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars, Asahi Shimbun reported, with Seiji Iimura pricing the 400-year-old bonsai at more than $54,000.
Also stolen, per CNN: Three miniature pine trees known as goyomatsu and three more shimpaku, with the trees together valued at at least $118,000.
The meticulous dedication needed to grow bonsai is said to form a deep and even emotional bond between gardener and plant, the Times reported, with caretakers often describing the trees in ways typically reserved for pets or relatives.
Iimura had cared for the 400-year-old shimpaku for 25 years, according to the newspaper, and hopes global media coverage of the plants’ theft will stifle their sale on the black market.
Follow Josh Hafner on Twitter: @joshhafner
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