A Japanese couple has taken to social media to share detailed care instructions with the thieves they say stole seven bonsai trees from them – including one tree that is more than 400 years old.
The miniature trees, reportedly taken from a garden in the Saitama prefecture of Tokyo in January, are worth about $166,000, according to CNN.
The distraught owners said they were still hopeful their “tree babies” would be returned, but implored the thieves to take proper care of them.
Describing the 400-year-old Shimpaku Juniper bonsai as her “child”, Fuyumi Iimura, the wife of the bonsai master who tended to the trees, wrote: “The bonsai [I] raised like my child … are you giving [it] water properly?
“I’m so sad.”
Sharing her wish that her bonsai would be returned, she posted: “I would like to raise a bonsai that I will be able to compliment … again.”
According to CNN, the Shimpaku tree – worth $127,700 – was slated to appear in a Japanese beauty competition this month.
Ms Iimura told the publication her husband, Seiji Iimura, is a bonsai master whose family practice dates back to 1603.
She explained the 400-year-old stolen tree had been taken from a mountain centuries ago by her husband’s family, who shrunk it to its current form of one metre tall and around 70 centimetres wide.
“We treated these miniature trees like our children,” she said.
“There are no words to describe how we feel. It’s like having your limbs lopped off.”
Ms Iimura said she suspected the people behind the theft were professionals, as they had successfully identified the “most valuable trees” from the couple’s property, which boasts around 3000 bonsais.
She said three miniature pine trees called Goyomatsus were stolen, along with three more Shimpaku Junipers of lesser value than the couple’s rare 400-year-old specimen.
The practice of bonsai requires expert care, and is considered an art form in Japan.