Sumibon newly-styled bonsai art becoming hot fresh local specialty in Nagano Prefecture


Asano (left) creates sumibon using charcoal made by Sekiguchi (right). (in Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture)

Asano (left) creates sumibon using charcoal made by Sekiguchi (right). (in Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture)

NAGANO, Aug. 29 ─ A new type of bonsai produced by a youth dispatched to a local government in Nagano Prefecture through a program called “the local community development caravan” is now gathering attention for its potential of becoming a new local specialty.

The producer of the new form of bonsai art, called sumibon in Japanese, is Tomonobu Asano, 35. Currently, he works in Nobushina, Nagano Prefecture, mainly to make better use of idle lands. Asano, who started to help the region in June last year, learned one day that an 82-year-old local rice farmer, Chikao Sekiguchi, makes charcoal on his own and enjoys sumibon as his hobby. Then, the two men worked together to improve its quality and commercialized it in April this year.

To make sumibon, they make a hole into a piece of charcoal and plant young nandinas, Ezo spruces, and other local mountain plants. As charcoal retains water, the bonsai in a charcoal container would last for more than one year if you give water moderately.

Asano sells the bonsai in charcoal containers made by Sekiguchi and with 50 different kinds of plants at events and festivals in Tokyo and its surrounding area. So far, he sold approximately 200 sumibon. Asano said he wants to make sumibon a new local specialty. Sekiguchi said he wants people to feel and enjoy the scenery of Nobushina region reproduced in the charcoal pot. Its pricing starts from 2,800 yen.

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