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Japanese couple robbed of 400-year-old bonsai tree

TOKYO: A rare 400-year-old bonsai tree and seven other tiny trees worth 13 million yen ($118,000) have been stolen from a garden space in Saitama prefecture near Tokyo.

The rare 400-year-old shimpaku tree, a star of the bonsai world, was due to be entered in a Japanese beauty competition this month, said Fuyumi Iimura, wife of bonsai master Seiji Iimura who crafted the trees. It was worth over 10 million yen ($90,000), CNN reported on Monday.

The couple also launched an emotional plea to thieves who stole seven trees from them last month, offering care instructions for their "children", the report said.

"We treated these miniature trees like our children," Fuyumi said. "There are no words to describe how we feel. It's like having your limbs lopped off."

Stemming from East Asia and often associated with Japan, Bonsai is a delicate art-form based on specialist cultivation techniques. The miniature plants are grown in containers that mimic the shape of fully-sized trees and require expert care.

"Our Shimpaku lived for 400 years, it needs care and can't survive a week without water," Fuyumi had written on Facebook.

"It can live forever, even after we're gone. I want whoever took it to make sure that it's properly watered."

She added that those responsible for the thefts, committed over a series of nights last month, were likely professionals, as they had identified the "most valuable trees" from the couple's roughly 5,000 hectare park, which has around 3,000 bonsai trees.

Also abducted were three miniature pine trees - called goyomatsus - and a trio of less-valuable shimpaku, a juniper tree which is now rare in the wild.

Fuyumi said that the 400-year-old tree had been taken from a mountain centuries ago and they had gradually shrunk the tree to its miniature form. It measured one metre (3.2 feet) tall and around 70 cm wide when stolen.

Indo-Asian News Service

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