Bonsai Seikouen saika bonsai

A report on making my own Saika Bonsai in the Omiya Bonsai Village for a special on Saitama Prefecture by the NHK Cool Japan programme. Disclaimer: I was invited onto the programme for my knowledge of, and work in promoting Saitama Prefecture, not bonsai! It was my first time pruning bonsai and I would really recommend it for an experience to remember.

Saika Bonsai

Saika Bonsai is a modern type of bonsai invented by the fifth generation bonsai master Yamada of Seikouen. Seikouen is one of the six bonsai gardens in the bonsai village in Omiya ward, Saitama City. Ms Yamada recognised that bonsai needed reinvention to appeal to a larger audience. To market bonsai in the modern day world she felt a fresh approach was needed in a time where few have the time or patience to learn the complicated techniques of traditional bonsai. She came up with Saika bonsai to target a wider audience, particularly younger people and women.

The meaning of Saika 彩花

In turn she devised a new word “Saika” 彩花. Literally meaning coloured flower, I presume the choice of “Sai” is an intended pun of “Sai no Kuni” a common name for Saitama. The chinese character 彩 is the same for both. Saitama,the land of colours, home and origin of Yamada’s original coloured flower in a potted plant. They are made from a tree (/s) with flowers and grass(es) with moss and stones decorating the surface.

Saika bonsai at Seikouen

The first Saika bonsai I saw in Seikouen captured my attention, because it conjured up the image of a small island for me. They are indeed supposed to represent a nature scene in a pot, but maybe not quite intended to be a potted island. Some bonsai masters initially questioned whether they are in fact bonsai at all. But whether they are or aren’t: they are beautiful and captivating. And great news for the general public without the first bit of knowledge of how to cultivate and prune a bonsai tree; these potted plants are much easier to create and care for than traditional bonsai.

Make your own Saika Bonsai

Making my own saika bonsai in the Omiya Bonsai Village for the TV program COOL Japan

There is an actual school in Seikouen where you can learn the principles and techniques of bonsai from an expert. Or you can just book a one day experience to make your own Saika Bonsai. This is what I did yesterday, but it was for “work” on location for NHK Cool Japan. I didn’t have time to take any photos bar the poor quality one below. And above a screen grab from the episode.

Saika Bonsai Omiya Seikouen

If you actually book to do it they will first explain bonsai and saika bonsai, then take you through the steps to make your own and finally they teach you how to care for it including how to water it. The teacher I had speaks fluent English. It costs 7,560 yen, which is very good value considering you get to take home your beautiful island in a pot! (Booking information at the bottom of the post).

What to bring

It can get quite messy, so it is advised you wear casual clothing and bring an apron. The school will provide all the materials and tools you need for the saika bonsai. They provide paper towels which you can use to dry your hands, but a hand towel might be useful too.

About Seikouen

Seikouen was just one of four locations where we shooted yesterday. Each has something unique to offer. All are worth a visit and I will write about each location over the coming weeks, but I think Seikouen has the broadest appeal particularly to overseas visitors. However, international tourists will not be able to just bring the bonsai home with them. Seikouen can help you with the procedure to ship the bonsai home. Please note, it takes weeks.

saika bonsai in the omiya bonsai village near Tokyo

The nursery has a beautiful traditional Japanese wooden gate entrance leading to paved footpaths that wind their way through the gardens. People say it is reminiscent of gardens of the Edo period. Like most of the locations in the bonsai village, photos are generally prohibited within the gardens. In Seikouen there is one place you can take a photo. The photo spot displays a seasonal bonsai selected by the staff of the nursery.

Overall the trip to the bonsai region far exceeded my expectations. The hands on experience of making my own Saika Bonsai was particularly gratifying and I can’t wait to bring my piece home. In another location we visited the same day a bonsai master explained how bonsai are part of the family, reared with tender loving care. I will do my best to raise my Saika bonsai, I will certainly treasure it for as long as we both shall live! I hope you get the chance to try it for yourself someday.


You can book through their website, by email or by phone. Please note: there is a quarantine period for shipping bonsai out of Japan.

Phone: 0120-464-870

Email: here


Seikouen is referred to as being in Omiya, specifically Omiya Bonsai Village, but officially it is in Kita ward. The address is:

〒331-0805 Saitama-ken, Saitama-shi, Kita-ku, Bonsaichō, 盆栽町268

The nearest station is Omiyakoen station on the Tobu Noda line. Toro station on the Tohoku line is also relatively close. Both are within walking distance of the garden.

On the web

Official website

Facebook Page


Saika bonsai

>>You might also like: Hands on pottery experience in Kawagoe.


    1. So much more fun than I could have imagined. I’d love to recommend it to foreign tourists, the only problem is getting the bonsai out of Japan. It has to go through quarantine and it is a lengthy and complicated procedure unfortunately.

    1. I’m really afraid of killing it too!! But I think I will be more conscientious to give it the love and care it needs because of the experience.

    1. It’s definitely in my top ten experiences I’ve had in Japan so far. Loved it and I can’t wait to get it back. I’m just praying / hope I don’t kill it!

  1. What a wonderful experience! I’ve always been fascinated with bonsai. We have a skilled bonsai artist that sells his work in our city, and it is always so lovely. I’d love to try it myself sometime.

    1. I really hope you get the chance. It was an unexpected chance that I got to do it, and I feel so fortunate for the opportunity. I think I will be better at bonsai than I am at regular gardening… at least I hope so!!

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