The distraught Japanese owners of seven stolen Bonsai trees worth £92,000 have pleaded with the thieves to continue caring for their precious plants.
Fuyumi Iimura and her husband Seiji, from Saitama, near Tokyo, wrote their heartfelt entreaty on Facebook after their bonsai garden was ransacked last month.
“We treated these miniature trees like our children,” Ms Iimura wrote.
“There are no words to describe how we feel. It’s like having your limbs lopped off.”
The raid is believed to be the work of professional bonsai thieves who knew exactly what they were looking for.
Among the 3,000 trees located in the couple’s garden, the looters stole just seven, including a particularly valuable 400-year-old Shimpaku Juniper.
“The Shimpaku lived for 400 years, it needs care and can’t survive a week without water,” Ms Iimura told CNN.
“It can live forever, even after we’re gone. I want whoever took it to make sure that it’s properly watered.”
The Shimpaku alone is worth about £70,000. Mr Iimura, a fifth-generation bonsai master, said it had been plucked from a mountain more than a century ago and been gradually shrunk down to its current one metre height through careful gardening.
“It’s not something that can be done overnight,” he said.
Bonsai trees have been a fascination for some Japanese gardeners since the practice was imported from China in the 6th century.
Using specialised techniques, bonsai collectors grow miniature trees inside containers as a form of art.
“We are sad and forlorn but we will continue to protect our Bonsai,” Ms Iimura wrote on Facebook.
“In the meantime, we will continue cultivating trees worthy of everyone’s praise.”
Many of those commenting on Facebook shared the Iimuras’ grief.
“Bonsais are meant to be revered and celebrated and should be beyond human greed,” one person wrote.
“I am heartbroken to read this.”
Another said: “Unforgiveable. These thieves do not know what it means to steal a bonsai, let alone seven. All the tender loving care goes with the theft.”