Bonsai tree worth big bucks stolen from a respected grower on Hawaii Island

The large tree on the left of the photo was recently stolen on Hawaii Island.
The large tree on the left of the photo was recently stolen on Hawaii Island.(David Fukumoto)
Published: Oct. 23, 2018 at 11:04 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 23, 2018 at 11:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Bonsai trees are a respected form of artwork in Japan. The prestige has carried over to Hawaii where the carefully sculpted and beautifully groomed trees can be worth thousands.

And a recent theft of a tree on Hawaii island has left a respected grower feeling like a part of him was stolen.

“It was a tremendous sense of loss. It’s almost as if my daughter got kidnapped, you know?” David Fukumoto of the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center said.

“I mean, you know, if you do good bonsai you have a very strong attachment to specific trees and it was very depressing to realize that someone would kidnap such a tree,” he added.

The small tree was stolen from the center in Kurtistown sometime in late September.

The Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center is located in Kurtistown on Hawaii Island.
The Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center is located in Kurtistown on Hawaii Island.(David Fukumoto/Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center)

Fukumoto says he planted the tree in 1962 and has been raising it ever since. He says it’s not about the financial value of the tree, but if he had to put a price on it, it would stretch into the thousands.

“It’s really, really hard for me to put a value, but the police asked me to come up with a number and I said a very conservative estimate would be $500 per year. And at 56 years, that makes it a $28,000 theft," he said.

Because of the value, police told him that would make the crime a felony theft.

The tree was placed prominently at the entrance of the Fuku-Bonsai center, which has also been hit hard by recent severe weather.

Fukumoto says Hurricane Lane caused damage to, or swept away some of the cherish trees in recent flooding, causing a loss for those that were up for sale.

“Although we’ve grown thousands for sale, those trees were never intended to be personal collections so we don’t have that personal attachment,” he said.

But the 56-year-old tree that was stolen is from his personal collection, adding to the pain of the loss. “In my opinion, it’s still kind of a personal, priceless tree,” he said.

He hopes whoever has it will bring it back.

“I believe that houseplant bonsai are relatively easy to take care of it. But I cannot imagine how a person can possibly enjoy knowing that the bonsai was stolen,” Fukumoto said. “I don’t want the person stealing bonsai to think that they can help themselves again.”

A police report was filed last month. Anyone with information on the tree or the suspect who took it is asked to call Hawaii Island police or the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center.

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