About the Itoigawa Shimpaku Project

Preserving and Celebrating Itoigawa’s Living Heritage

The Itoigawa Shimpaku is an invaluable part of Itoigawa’s natural and cultural heritage. Shaped and nurtured by the region’s rugged terrain, it is a stunning reminder of the deep bonds which connect the land around us not only to our natural environment, but to our cultures and societies. Masterpieces such as “Tsuru-no-Mai” (Crane Dance) and “Hiryuu” (Flying Dragon) have earned this tree recognition as a “King of Bonsai.” To this day, the Itoigawa Shimpaku’s ability to beautifully express the harshness of nature and the perseverance of life is celebrated by bonsai enthusiasts across the globe. Despite this, the Itoigawa Shimpaku faces many challenges. After decades of collection, it has nearly vanished from its natural habitats and the local bonsai community is aging, which may leave the Itoigawa Shimpaku with nobody available to care for these beautiful plants in the near future.

The Itoigawa Geopark Council, in cooperation with local stakeholders and organizations, launched the Itoigawa Shimpaku Project in 2020 to protect, promote and celebrate this local treasure through the following three goals:

1 Revitalize local communities

  • Use the Itoigawa Shimpaku in the development of new, sustainable activity-based tours and experience programs
  • Increase awareness of the Itoigawa Shimpaku and Itoigawa UNESCO Global Geopark through print and digital media
  • Revitalize local communities through responsible tourism

2 Connect with younger generations

  • Increase interest in the Itoigawa Shimpaku and bonsai culture
  • Transmit technique and knowledge from local bonsai masters to develop new generations of bonsai artists
  • Prevent the further export and loss of significant bonsai specimens

3 Ensure the Itoigawa Shimpaku’s future

  • Implement replanting and management programs in the Itoigawa Shimpaku’s natural habitats
  • Raise awareness in conservation issues related to forest and mountain ecosystems

Itoigawa’s Bonsai Gardens


Himekawa’en features a variety of Itoigawa Shimpaku collected from the mountains over 40 years ago in a variety of sizes and shapes. Master Umezawa works to accentuate the Itoigawa Shimpaku’s graceful-butrugged form in a way that reflects its natural habitat in the rocky mountains above Itoigawa.

Train 10 min taxi from Itoigawa Sta.
Car 10 min drive from Itoigawa IC
Address 3036 Suzawa, Itoigawa

Kataoka Garden

Kataoka Garden offers a large selection of Itoigawa Shimpaku and alpine plants, from saplings to impressive trees collected from the mountains. Master Kataoka tries to create bonsai which bring out the beautiful, white shari and graceful curves which make the Itoigawa Shimpaku so enjoyable to work with.

Train 5 min walk from Himekawa Sta.
Car 3 min drive from Itoigawa IC
Address 421-1 Ono, Itoigawa

Ota Shofuen

Located near the entrance of Nechi Valley, backdropped by Mt. Amakazari and Mt. Komagatake, Ota Shofuen features many Itoigawa Shimpaku collected from the mountains. Master Ota specializes in recreating the look and feel of the Itoigawa Shimpaku’s natural habitat through his bonsai designs.

Train 5 min walk from Nechi Sta.
Car 15 min drive from Itoigawa IC
Address 343 Negoya, Itoigawa

Tour and Activity Opportunities

Learn how to train and care for bonsai using Itoigawa Shimpaku, tour Itoigawa’s bonsai gardens to learn more about this beautiful tree straight from the masters themselves, or venture deep into the mountains of Itoigawa to visit the rugged landscapes that produced this special tree.

We are working with our community to produce new and exciting tour opportunities. To be informed of the latest developments within the Itoigawa Geopark, check back here regularly and follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

Cooperating Organizations

The following organizations cooperate with the Itoigawa Geopark Council to make this project possible:

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