July 2, 2013
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hiroshi Takeyama prunes bonsai at a nursery in Kita Ward, Saitama.
The Saitama city government, the Omiya Bonsai Cooperative and
other local bonsai-related organizations have launched
a campaign to host the World Bonsai Convention in 2017.
The convention, which is held every four years,
debuted in 1989 in Omiya,
a city that has since been integrated into Saitama.
If the current bid is successful,
the 2017 event would mark the convention’s first return
to Japan in 28 years.
The city government and concerned entities
hope to transform locally grown bonsai into
a globally recognized Japanese brand,
particularly in the European market.
They also plan to showcase Omiya Bonsai Village,
a cluster of bonsai nurseries and related facilities,
as an international tourist spot.
Their goal is to attract at least 70,000 visitors
to the event in Saitama, where public exhibitions,
business meetings, and pruning and trimming demonstrations
According to the city government’s tourism division,
the first bonsai convention in Omiya was attended by
about 1,200 hobbyists and researchers
from 32 countries and territories.
At the first convention,
bonsai masters led pruning and trimming demonstrations
as well as workshops on cultivation and history
to spread bonsai culture and promote exchange.
Since then, the convention has been held
in such cities as Seoul, Munich and Washington.
Hiroshi Takeyama, 72, chief of Fuyo-en,
one of the nurseries in Omiya Bonsai Village,
heads a committee to bid for the world convention.
“The diversity of plant species here is
unparalleled anywhere in the world.
With the full support of the local community,
we hope to show the rest of the world
what the home of bonsai has to offer,” he said.
In Omiya Bonsai Village,
the exports of bonsai to Europe will fully resume in this autumn,
and local residents expect the market to grow.
The 2017 venue will be decided in September,
when the World Bonsai Friendship Federation holds a meeting
of its directors in Jintan, China.
Nine WBFF directors will vote on the venue.
Saitama’s main rival in the bid to host the convention is
seen to be a city in Taiwan
that is also trying to expand its bonsai exports,
according to sources.
In Taiwan, techniques to cultivate bonsai
have improved in recent years,
and the products are priced lower than those
from Omiya Bonsai Village.
“It will be a good opportunity for us
to differentiate our products from theirs
by emphasizing our cultivation expertise and
the superb quality of our products.”
As European countries hold the key to the decision,
Saitama Mayor Hayato Shimizu
will solicit the support of a WBFF director in London in July.
An official of the city government tourism division said:
“Partly because of bonsai booms in Europe,
we have high expectations for the potential economic effects.
We want to host the convention at any cost.”
Takeyama, meanwhile, said,
“I hope our efforts at bringing the convention to the city
will increase the number of bonsai lovers in Japan.”
Omiya Bonsai Village was established
after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.
Bonsai masters in and around Tokyo’s Sendagi district
who suffered damage from the quake moved to an area
near JR Toro Station in present-day Kita Ward, Saitama,
because the red loamy soil of the Kanto Plain was
well suited for growing bonsai.
(C) The Yomiuri Shimbun