A dizzying mixture of old ways and modern style, crowds and calm, and arguably the best food scene on the planet.
Travel bucket list idea:
Bonsai trees in Omiya
Saitama, Kanto, Japan
One of Japan’s most refined, traditional art forms, the growing of ornamental dwarf trees and the creation of miniature landscapes, aka bonsai, first came to Japan from China roughly 800 years ago.
Varied in appearance and symbolism, they represent the imperfection and struggle of nature. And tending to a bonsai can be a lifetime’s pursuit.
For bonsai buffs, or to simply understand more about this fascinating tradition, a day trip north of Tokyo to the Omiya ‘Bonsai Village’ in the neighbouring city of Saitama is well worth adding to your itinerary. There are half a dozen nurseries there open to the public, as well as a dedicated bonsai museum – the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum.
Just take plenty of cash if you feel like buying one – the most expensive on record, reportedly close to 800 years old, sold for more than a million dollars, and it’s not uncommon to see prices at nurseries hit the 10,000-dollar mark.
Getting there & doing it
Omiya, a district within the city of neighbouring city of Saitama, is just north of Tokyo.
Getting there is quick and easy by JR trains; depending on the service, it’s 30 to 50 minutes from Tokyo and Ueno stations.
Or, if you wanted to splurge on a taste of the Bullet Train, it’s just two stops from Tokyo Station (26 mins) or one from Ueno (20 mins).
The website of the bonsai museum, the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, has some background information on bonsai trees and their art forms – worth a quick read before you go.
When to do it
Bonsai nurseries are open daily. The Bonsai Museum is open all year round, Friday to Wednesday. It’s closed on Thursday.
Destination guides including or relevant to this experience