Art: Bhutan can help its long-time donor friend in one aspect says Masashi Hirao, the Japanese Bonsai specialist.

The bonsai master is on a mission to promote the ancient Japanese tradition.

The market for bonsai trees in Japan at present is in economic crisis, he said. “Our youth are not so interested in bonsai trees, but it is popular with Westerners, and they are importing the trees.”

He said that western cultures have gained popularity over their tradition and culture, especially with youth in certain areas, including growing bonsai trees.

On the contrary, he finds Bhutan and Bhutanese perfect for the art.

“His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen expressed great interest in Bonsai tree, which really touched me,” he said. There will be plenty of trees in Bhutan’s forests that can be made into bonsai, he added.

“So bonsai trees will do very well here,” he said.

For instance, the rocks here can be perfect for making bonsai trees. “Such rocks will be difficult to find in other countries,” Masashi Hirao said.

Japanese are very fond of Bhutan because the two countries have a lot of similarities in terms of geography and the love for nature.

“Coming here is visiting Japan of yesteryears surrounded by nature,” Masashi Hirao said.


Thousands of people visited Masashi Hirao’s bonsai demonstration at the Royal Bhutan Flower Show in Paro. The exhibition this year was held to commemorate Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen’s Birth Anniversary.

The exhibition’s newest attractions were the bonsai displays from Japan and organic vegetables, temperate fruits and exotic flowers from the Royal Project Foundation of Thailand.

The exhibition was spread over 18 acres of the Ugyen Pelri palace grounds. The exhibition displayed the country’s rich indigenous plants and herbs, as well as a large variety of ornamental flowers and vegetables from around the world. Seeds, seedlings, gardening tools, cut flowers and souvenirs are available for purchase with experts providing useful gardening tips.

Organised on the Royal Command of His Majesty The King, the exhibition’s aim was to inspire appreciation for beautiful spaces, fostering community vitality, and encouraging the growth of a vibrant entrepreneurship in floriculture.

The bonsai master trained agriculture officials in making bonsai trees and made presentations at a talk show during the exhibition.

Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees.

Bonsai is not intended for production of food or for medicine. Bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees in a container.

The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation for the viewer and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity for the grower.

“The art of bonsai tree-making brings peace to the maker,” Masashi Hirao said. He added that Bhutanese are different from people elsewhere.

He said the people appreciate and value his art but don’t put a commercial tag on it. “Elsewhere, people just want to buy them and are not really interested in knowing how it is done.”

“I hope that one day Japanese will see Bhutanese do well with this art and then learn from them,” Masashi Hirao said.

Tshering Palden