Felix Laughlin

National Bonsai & Penjing Museum Enters into Historic “Sister Museum” Relationship with Omiya Bonsai Art Museum in Japan

Photo Credit: Stephen Voss

Photo Credit: Stephen Voss

The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum officially became a Sister Museum to The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum in Saitama, Japan on Monday, Aug. 5th! 

Our Museum was formed in 1976 as the result of Japan’s Bicentennial Gift of 53 masterpiece bonsai. The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, created in 2010, is located in the famous “Bonsai Village” that has been at the center of bonsai in Japan for almost 100 years.

Many board members and leaders from both museums attended the ceremony, which was held at our Museum in Washington, D.C. Dr. Richard Olsen – Director of the U.S. National Arboretum, which houses our Museum – and The Honorable Hayato Shimizu, Mayor of Saitama, signed the “Sister Museums Declaration.”

Photo Credit: Stephen Voss

Photo Credit: Stephen Voss

Attendees heard remarks from Dr. Olsen, Mayor Shimizu, Felix Laughlin – National Bonsai Foundation Co-President – and Takahiro Shimada, Minister for Communications and Cultural Affairs at the Japanese Embassy. A luncheon in the Exhibits Gallery followed the ceremony, and Dr. Fumiya Taguchi – Manager of The Omiya museum – gave a presentation called “The History of Bonsai in Japan.”

Photo Credit: Stephen Voss

Photo Credit: Stephen Voss

In the advent of their new partnership, the two museums plan to share information about their upcoming educational bonsai exhibits and programs. 

“Both museums hope to help increase awareness and appreciation for the other as premier destinations to experience the art of bonsai at its highest level of creativity and development,” Laughlin said.

Photo Credit: Stephen Voss

Photo Credit: Stephen Voss

MEDIA ADVISORY: Sister Museum Announcement

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The U.S. National Arboretum’s National Bonsai & Penjing Museum and the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum of  Saitama City, Japan to Sign Sister Museum Declaration

Official signing, private celebration and special presentation will take place August 5th at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum

WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, August 5, 2019, the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, located at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC, will officially become a “Sister Museum” to Omiya Bonsai Art Museum of Saitama City, Japan. The National Bonsai Foundation (NBF) will help host a formal dedication ceremony to mark this occasion at the Washington, DC Museum. Discussions around this idea started in 2012 when NBF Co-President, Jack Sustic visited OBAM to discuss beginning a relationship between the two museums. 

On August 5th, Dr. Richard Olsen, Director of the U.S. National Arboretum, and the Honorable Hayato Simizu, Mayor of Saitama City, will sign the "Sister Museums Declaration.” This will be followed by brief remarks from Richard Olsen, Mayor Simizu, NBF Co-President, Felix Laughlin, and Minister Takehiro Shimada, of the Japanese Embassy.  There will be lunch in the Museum’s Exhibits Gallery followed by a presentation from Dr. Fumiya Taguchi, of Omiya Bonsai Art Museum on "Japanese Bonsai History."  

This event is invite only. Members of the press interested in attending can contact Kendra@KendraRubinfeldpr.com

The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum will be closed from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. for this special event.


Founded in 1982, the National Bonsai Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit that works in cooperation with the U.S. National Arboretum to supply financial, programmatic and curatorial support for the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum. The Foundation offices and Museum are located on the grounds of the Arboretum in Northeast Washington, DC.



Board President, Felix Laughlin addresses crowd.

Board President, Felix Laughlin addresses crowd.

Last month, our staff, board members, friends, and supporters of the National Bonsai Foundation gathered to celebrate the long-awaited re-dedication of the Japanese Pavilion.

The Japanese Pavilion was originally built in 1975 to house and display the 53 bonsai gifted to the American people for the bicentennial from the Nippon Bonsai Association on behalf of the Japanese people.

After nearly 40 years serving as a symbol of peace, and hosting visitors from all over the world to view the historic collection, the pavilion was in need of renovations. The $2 million project was almost completely donor-funded, and the National Bonsai Foundation is so grateful to those who contributed, particularly Dr. Deborah Rose, whose generous leadership gift made the pavilion redesign possible.

Interior of new Japanese Pavilion

Interior of new Japanese Pavilion

The new pavilion was designed by world-renowned Japanese garden designer Hoichi Kurisu. Kurisu’s design for the pavilion invokes traditional Japanese design concepts Shin, Gyo and So, featuring natural elements like boulders and running water.

In his own words:

“Unlike painting or sculpture, bonsai is a pure and living art form. My challenge is to express that beauty and dignity, as well as the timelessness of the trees … We need peaceful moments in our lives. I think 99 percent of people in this country are missing that. To understand nature is to understand the universe.”

You can read more about Kurisu’s life, work, and vision for the garden here.

At the October opening, guests heard remarks from Dr. Richard Olsen, director of the U.S. National Arboretum; Mr. Felix Laughlin, president of the National Bonsai Foundation; Mr. Takehiro Shimada, minister for communications and cultural affairs at the Embassy of Japan; Mrs. Naemi Iwasaki, chair of the Nippon Bonsai Association; and Mrs. Marybel Balendonck, vice president of the National Bonsai Foundation.

Throughout the weekend, guests enjoyed other events like a presentation on the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi from Bonsai Master Seiji Morimae, who recently donated three trees to the Museum’s collection, and Bonsai Artist Peter Warren. The National Bonsai Foundation also hosted a dinner to honor Dr. Deborah Rose for her leadership gift and our guests from Japan, including Mrs. Naemi Iwasaki, the chair of the Nippon Bonsai Association.

Finally, we were honored to welcome Mr. William Valavanis into the Bonsai Hall of Fame, presented by former Museum Curator Jack Sustic.

The renovated Japanese Pavilion, along with the rest of the national bonsai collection, is open to the public daily from 10 am – 4 pm. (All photos by Colella Digital).