Japan, home to the world’s most beautiful Bonsai trees, is a place to have visited at least once in a lifetime. The quality (and quantity) of Bonsai trees, Japanese gardens and other cultural sites is simply overwhelming.

Bonsai gardens in Japan

Where to go

The Kanto area (greater Tokyo region) is home to the most famous Japanese Bonsai nurseries, while Kyoto houses the most impressive Japanese gardens and other cultural sites. Personal highlights included visits to Suzuki, Kimura, Omiya, the top-three Japanese gardens and the uncountable number of superb Kyoto gardens. If time permits, schedule a visit to Kinashi Bonsai village as well. Some non-Bonsai related highlights included attending a Sumo tournament day, indulging on some of the best food in the world, making a trip to the wonderful Shikoku island and skiing in the Japanese Alps. A Bonsai holiday to Japan will very likely result in new personal interests, like gardens, Suiseki, Ikebana, Manga, etc!

 

When to go

Most organized Bonsai tours to Japan depart early February, for the one reason to coincide with the famous Kokufu-ten Bonsai exhibition. The warmer and climatically more stable seasons of spring and autumn are much better times to visit Japan though. When visiting in spring, make sure your trip coincides with Shunga-ten (Shohin exhibition Osaka, late March) and the cherry blossoms (late March/early April). For the most intense autumn colors, visit in November, possibly coinciding with the Shuga-ten (Shohin exhibition Tokyo, early November) or Taikan-ten (Bonsai exhibition Kyoto, mid November).

Other main Bonsai exhibitions in Japan include the Gafu-ten (largest Shohin exhibition, Kyoto early January), Koju-ten (main Satsuki tree exhibit, Kanuma early January), Sogo-ten (Suiseki exhibit, Tokyo late March) and the Satsuki festival (Satsuki trees, Tokyo early June).

 

 

Bonsai sights in Japan

The main Bonsai sights in Japan include the Bonsai villages in Omiya and Takamatsu (Kinashi), the gardens owned by mr. Kimura and mr. Suzuki, Osaka based Fujikawa Kouka-en, the Kyoto based Koju-en Shohin nursery, several famous Bonsai exhibitions and Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunkaen Bonsai museum in Tokyo.

Japanese gardens in Japan

Japan’s top three gardens are Kairakuen (Mito), Kenrokuen (Kanazawa) and Korakuen (Okayama). Kyoto offers many stunning gardens, including Ginkakuji, Kennin-ji, Daisen-in, Koto-in, Ryogen-in, Kinkaku-ji, Ryoan-ji and Ninna-ji. Finally, Ritsurin garden in Takamatsu is worth going when visiting Kinashi Bonsai village.

 

Select your topic of interest below in the list of articles.

大宮盆栽村 - Omiya has been an old time favorite destination for Bonsai enthusiasts traveling into Japan.

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盆栽美術館 大観 - The Taikan Bonsai museum is owned by Mr. Shinji Suzuki and is an absolutely stunning place. In my humble opinion its the best looking Bonsai garden in Japan and the museum is very well laid out.

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Mr. Kimura's work is among the most famous and important of contemporary Bonsai in Japan. His new and radical approach to how he styled Bonsai was first seen as breaking with (too) many traditions, but soon he was widely recognized and respected.

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春花園Bonsai美術館 - Shunka-en is the Bonsai garden and museum set up by Bonsai master Kunio Kobayashi (three times winner of the Prime Ministers Award, the most prestigious price to be won in Japan).

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藤川光華園 盆栽 - The Fujikawa Kouka-en garden is owned by Mr. Fujikawa and is located near Osaka, in the suburb of Ikeda. The nursery opened in 1950 and several of its trees entered in the Kokufu-ten in Tokyo since then.

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香川県高松市鬼無町 - Less famous, but many times larger than and perhaps almost as beautiful as Omiya, Kinashi is a very impressive sight and surely worth some time in your travel itinerary.

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The Taishoen garden is famous for its Shohin sized Bonsai trees. It is located in Shizuoka, right at the foot of mt. Fuji.

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広樹園 - Kojuen has a large collection of superb Shohin trees, both deciduous and coniferous, beautifully displayed in an Kyoto-urban garden setting.

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上野グリーンクラブ & 日本盆栽協会 - The Ueno Green Club is located at the west part of Ueno Park and is home to several Bonsai shops offering trees, tools and pots.

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Right in the middle of the classic shopping district Ginza you will find this upmarket Bonsai store. Morimae Ginza showcases several beautiful trees and tokonoma displays.

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Throughout the year several Bonsai, Shohin and Suiseki Exhibitions are held in Japan. By far the most important exhibition is the Kokufu-Ten, where the highest quality Bonsai trees of Japan are displayed. The exhibition is held in Kyoto in February. For Shohin lovers the most important show is the Gafu-Ten, also held in Kyoto in January.

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Kyoto is absolutely packed with fine Japanese gardens, needless to say a must visit in any Japan itinerary. The gardens, often part of temples or old imperial retreats, are spread around the city (with the exception of Daitoku-ji, which is a large complex housing several temples).

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偕楽園 - Kairakuen (literally ‘the garden to enjoy with people’) is one of Japan’s top three gardens. Its location close to Tokyo makes for a worthwhile day trip.

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兼六園 - A former castle garden, Kenrokuen dates back from the 17th century and is rated one of Japan’s top three gardens. The name means ‘combined six’, referring to the six attributes of perfection (seclusion, artificiality, spaciousness, antiquity, abundant water and broad views).

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Located on the slopes of Mt Shiun, Ritsurin-koen (栗林公園) is astonishingly beautiful. It dates back to the 17th century, built for the feudal lord of Sanuki.

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