World Bonsai Convention Opening Ceremony
An opening ceremony was held to greet the convention's honorary president, his Highness Prince Akishino, and his wife Princess Kiko. Afterwards, local schoolchildren learning bonsai in class put up cards with messages for the future to brighten up the exhibition hall.
A bonsai demonstration was then led by Nippon Bonsai Association Director Masahiko Kimura (2nd from left), with many enthusiastic questions flying up from the exhibition hall.
Japan Bonsai Suiseki Shiho-ten
Held concurrently with the World Bonsai Convention, the Japan Bonsai Suiseki Shiho-ten was a bonsai exhibition open the general public, also held at Saitama Super Arena. Over 45,000 people attended the three-day exhibition, vastly exceeding expectations.
One of the special exhibitions was the Imperial Bonsai display. This Shimpaku (心拍) juniper, estimated to be 600 years old, is the oldest bonsai plant maintained by the imperial household.
Meanwhile, this beautiful wisteria bonsai lit up the hall with its brilliance.
Guests in kimono really helped build up a Japanese ambiance as well.
Demonstrations by bonsai lovers from around the world were held regularly in the exhibition hall. Attendees from overseas listened intently to the English interpretation.
Countless sales booths offered plants, supplies and more.
There was so much packed into the exhibition hall there wouldn't have been enough time to examine it all in a day. Even someone with no knowledge of bonsai could find something to enjoy!
Omiya Bonsai Art Museum
Located near Toro Station, two stops north of Omiya on the Tohoku Main Line, the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum is the world's first museum for bonsai. As the convention's sub-venue, droves of visitors crowded this location as well.
The pride of the bonsai world, the five-needle pine known as Higurashi (日暮し) was displayed for the first time in six years especially for the Bonsai Convention. Thought to be over 400 years old, its market value is estimated at around ¥138 million (US$1.24 million). As bonsai go, this is as expensive as it gets!
The name Higurashi comes from the Japanese for "to spend the day," as one never gets tired of looking at this masterpiece all day long.
The bonsai called Karin (花梨), also on special display at the museum, is valued for being cherished by former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi. For some bonsai, the key to their worth is in who has owned them!
Turned over to Kishi (pictured) by former Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, the bonsai is currently managed by the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum.
International Interest in Bonsai
Young people from around the world with an interest in bonsai are coming to Japan's bonsai gardens in pursuit of knowledge. Daniel (pictured), from Germany, works in the gardens in the Omiya Bonsai Village (大宮盆栽村・Omiya Bonsai Mura), the greater area in which the Bonsai Art Museum is located.
Similarly, after a demonstration by bonsai master Hiroshi Takeyama (right), most of the people who rushed over requesting autographs were from overseas. This shot shows just how much popularity bonsai enjoys abroad!
Saitama City Celebrates Bonsai
Hospitality events were held at various places for guests visiting Omiya for the Bonsai Convention. The Bonsai House of the Four Seasons, located near the Bonsai Village, offered a tea ceremony to patrons.
Meanwhile, this Omiya café offered "bonsai curry" in honor of the convention. It was fun looking at this plate topped with watercress shaped vaguely like bonsai!
A Bonsai Convention PR booth was also displayed on the premises of JR Omiya Station. People coming and going from the station stopped briefly to appreciate the plants.
This bonsai was also displayed at Omiya Station. Well over 870 years old, it served as good PR for the convention!
While you might have missed the 2017 convention, the next World Bonsai Convention is scheduled to be held in Perth, Australia in 2021!