Itoigawa City, Niigata Prefecture
Between the coast of the Sea of Japan and the towering Northern Japanese Alps, Itoigawa, in Niigata Prefecture, is rich in natural wonders and home to one of Japan’s most popular trees used for the art of bonsai.
The Itoigawa Shimpaku juniper tree, loved for its wild yet elegant nature, grows best on the rocky limestone cliffs of Mt. Myojo and Mt. Kurohime. Shaped and nurtured by the rugged environment, it is prized for its reflection of the harshness of nature and perseverance of life, earning it the name the King of Bonsai.
Its habitat makes it difficult to collect, yet the juniper has been harvested for decades and is now facing a decline. To help preserve this natural and cultural heritage of Itoigawa, the Itoigawa Shimpaku Project, organized by the Itoigawa Geopark Council, aims to raise awareness of bonsai culture, revitalize local communities and manage conservation initiatives.
See this regional tree growing wild on the craggy cliffs of Mt. Myojo, or take a tour of bonsai gardens and nurseries to learn more from bonsai masters. The Itoigawa Shimpaku Project is working with the local community to provide programs for visitors to the city, including bonsai cultivation lessons for beginners.
Two hours by Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Itoigawa Station.
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