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Bonsai Basics: Beginner's Guide, Top Trees, Tokyo Picks

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Bonsai is perhaps the most well-known and treasured of Japan’s botanical beauty. What you may not realize, however, is that “bonsai” is not the name of the trees themselves, but the name of the art form of raising these miniature saplings. Bonsai trees get their size from being grown in a small container that restricts the extent to which their roots can grow.

Furthermore, this art form serves a very specific purpose that, once you better understand it, will make you a lifelong lover of bonsai. Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about the art of bonsai and how to make it a new hobby that will last a lifetime.

Benefits of Bonsai

Bonsai is intended as a meditative practice, meaning the goal is reciprocal enrichment between plant and practitioner. Bonsai offers a variety benefits to hobbyists, many of which can positively affect one’s well-being.

Great for Your Physical Health

There are indoor and outdoor bonsai. Indoor bonsai are helpful in purifying the air in your home, which can aid in reducing cold symptoms such as coughs or sore throats. Clean air also helps fight fatigue.

Bonsai Provides Mental Health Benefits, Too

Raising bonsai is not to be rushed. The constant care, trimming and use of proper water make this art form a practice in patience, and can teach the value of taking it slow from time to time. Therefore, growing bonsai can be a great stress reliever if you are on the go in your professional life.

Explore Your Creativity

We all have a general mental image of what a bonsai looks like. However, when starting to grow a new tree, there are many ways to develop your new bonsai’s aesthetics, giving you the opportunity to be as creative as your imagination will allow.

Best Types of Bonsai Trees for Beginners

Depending on your skill level, some bonsai trees are easier to maintain than others due to varying demands for care and cultivation. If you are a beginner to the hobby, these plant types might be more your speed.

Chinese Juniper Bonsai

Visually, the Chinese juniper bonsai is the most common type when you think of bonsai trees. Juniper bonsai closely resemble miniature pine trees, and tend to be dark green or blueish-green in color. These bonsai are not recommended for indoor growing.

Fig Tree (Ficus Bonsai)

Indoor bonsai have experienced a boom in popularity, and ficus bonsai trees are chief among them. There are numerous small leaf-types of ficus, most of which are great for bonsai. This particular species is versatile enough to be grown outside in full sunlight as well, making it a great option for novices.

Chinese Elm Bonsai

The Chinese Elm Bonsai is another highly versatile plant that grows extremely well in sunlight and can also endure colder winter temperatures quite handily. Its branches grow significantly faster than the trunk, so frequent pruning is necessary. The stringy roots give it an aesthetic advantage, as this makes rock planting a bit easier.

Maple Bonsai

There are over 100 species of maple trees, and nearly all can be used for bonsai. The most common of these for bonsai is the Trident maple. Recommended as an exclusively outdoor bonsai, this deciduous tree changes from a dark green color to beautiful tinges of orange and red in autumn, offering a charming amount of character to your plant garden.

Jade Bonsai

There are two species of jade bonsai; Crassula argentea and Portulacaria afra, with the latter of the two being much easier for care and maintenance, so make this your choice as a newbie to the hobby. Jade bonsai are easily recognizable by their oval-shaped leaves, as well as their trunks that change color as they age.

Where to Buy Bonsai Trees in Tokyo

Of course, if you are interested in seriously getting started with bonsai as a new, you need to know where to find one to get started. Here are a few places in Tokyo with a selection of bonsai and resources that will help you begin on the right foot.

Bonsai Network

Bonsai Network is located in Saitama, just outside of North Tokyo Prefecture. Not only does Bonsai Network have an extensive collection of over 200 bonsai trees in various species for sale at any given time, but they even offer guided English-speaking tours and bonsai workshops for enthusiasts from around the world.

Morimae Ginza Shop

This impressive bonsai shop is located right in the middle of Ginza’s upscale shopping district, and provides everything you need to get started. Morimae Ginza Shop has a handful of breathtaking trees for sale, and they also provide pots and other tools necessary for care and maintenance of your new bonsai.


Featuring approximately 1,000 products in stock, Yoshoen is a bonsai specialty shop that can meet the needs of advanced enthusiasts and beginners alike. Their physical location is in Osaka, but they offer an online mail-ordering system where you can purchase trees and have them quickly shipped to your location in Tokyo.

Omiya Bonsai Store

Located an hour from central Tokyo in the Kita Ward of Saitama, the Omiya Bonsai Store is well-known and trusted by bonsai lovers both in Japan and throughout the world. They have built quite the reputation as Japan’s oldest bonsai brand, dating back to 1925. Like Yoshoen, Omiya Bonsai store offers an online shopping service that features trees, pots and tools, all with free shipping.

How to Care for and Maintain Bonsai Trees

Though there is a mystique surrounding the delicate nature of bonsai, the process of caring of them is actually quite easy. While some species of bonsai may require more attention than others, the most important part of the process is maintaining care on a regular basis. Some key general guidelines to remember when caring for your bonsai are:

■ Keep bonsai in moderate light and away from extreme heat.

■ Water once a week and use a humidity tray to sustain hydration between waterings.

■ As your bonsai grows, repot in similar small, shallow pots to maintain its dwarfed size.

Armed with this knowledge, you should be well on your way to becoming a bonsai master, and your newfound bond with nature will be of great benefit to you for years to come.

Purchasing Bonsai Related Articles Online

You can purchase Bonsai, bonsai related books, and bonsai related products online.