A couple who was robbed of at least $166,000 worth of precious horticultural rarities has one plea for the thief: water the trees.
Bonsai master Seiji Iimura—who kept a garden in the Saitama prefecture outside of Tokyo—was robbed of seven small bonsai trees valued around 13 million yen, reports CNN.
The thefts reportedly happened over multiple nights in January. The botanical bandits reportedly sought out the trees with the most value, and plucked them from approximately 3,000 trees across the 12,000-acre garden.
Fuyumi Iimura, the wife of the bonsai master, told CNN that one tree was worth more than 10 million yen, or around $127,000. It was reportedly a 400-year-old shimpaku tree that the master hoped to enter into a contest soon.
“We treated these miniature trees like our children,” Fuyumi Iimura told CNN. “There are no words to describe how we feel. It’s like having your limbs lopped off.”
Seiji Iimura is the fifth generation in a line of bonsai masters. His wife told CNN that the shimpaku had been acquired about 400 years ago from a mountain. Over centuries, the family cultivated the tree into its current shrunken form—about 97cm tall and 70cm wide.
Fuyumi Iimura told CNN that bonsai masters sometimes find their stolen trees on social media, but they rarely get the plants back. Having little hope in retrieving the tree, they at least want the new owner to take care of it immediately.
The Iimuras have posted about the missing tree on Facebook, asking for any information on its whereabouts. Fuyumi also wrote a post on Facebook saying she raised the bonsai like her own child. Referring to whoever has the bonsai, she asks the tree: “are they giving you enough water?”
“I want whoever took the bonsais to make sure they are watered. The shimpaku lived for 400 years,” Fuyumi Iimura told CNN. “It needs care and can’t survive a week without water.”