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May 30, 2024, 11:09am EDT
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Japan’s bonsai trees are being targeted for theft and trafficking

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The News

Japan’s signature bonsai trees — precisely pruned and carefully manipulated by long-trained artisans — have become so popular, they are increasingly being targeted for theft and trafficking.

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Bonsai growing traces its roots to 8th century China, eventually making its way to Japan more than 1,000 years ago, but was not recorded in the West until around the 17th century.

In more recent years, demand for bonsais has exploded, driving an illicit trade. This month alone in Japan, one bonsai seller reported losing 33 trees worth $120,000 in a single robbery, according to Le Monde, while a trade association of bonsai growers has tracked 25 thefts in the past three months, including one of trees worth around $190,000.

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