Shizuoka is a seaside city close to Mount Fuji and a 2 hours drive from Tokyo. Famous for its tea plantations – 50% of the japanese production is made in the area – the city also hosts a young nurseryman of a new kind, Naruoka Suichi, who has launched in 2012 an importation business for bonsai olive trees.
In Olio Veritas – Naruoka Suichi, could you please tell us about your business ?
Naruoka Suichi – I’m a nurseryman, specialized in olive trees for garden ornement, not for horticultural purpose. I buy olive trees from Spain and sell them here to professionals as well as households, mostly in Tokyo and Yokohama’s area. Look at this century old Hojiblanca tree for instance : a spanish restaurant owner in Osaka has just ordered it. The olive trees that I sell are quite particular as branches and roots are pruned in the bonsai way, to meet local customers expectations… and also the lack of room in japanese cities. Some of the trees are just a few decades old, others are one or two centuries old and the current masterpiece is a 700 years old tree !
In Olio Veritas : How did the idea of this business come up and how did you learn the job ?
Naruoka Suichi : Olive tree is something that I’ve been fascinated by for a very long time. However I didn’t want to grow olives, I was more interested in designing it, as a bonsai then. I learned on my own, reading a lot of books about olive trees as well as bonsai. The most important thing is the never ending pruning of branches and leaves, making sure yet that the tree will get enough light. I launched my company in 2012 : my father is a pastry chef and I took away from him the bakery shop’s parking slots to store and show the trees.
In Olio Veritas – It must not be easy to have these trees coming from Spain. How does it work ?
Naruoka Suichi – I sometimes go to Spain to choose the trees and discuss the price. My english is not as good as I wished, and I don’t speak spanish, but fortunately I can use the modern ways of instant translation and big gestures sometimes help as well ! After each order that I pass, the trees are shipped to Japan, which takes about 2 months. They travel in open containers so that they can breathe and receive light. Once in the japanese ports, things get a bit more complicated because customs officers are very rigorous. If they deem that a tree is likely to bring pests or diseases on Japan’s soil, they send it back to Spain !
In Olio Veritas – Indiscreet question : what is the selling price of the trees ?
Naruoka Suichi – Of course it depends on the type, age and size of tree. A one century old tree for instance is worth roughly 3.500€. The price for the 700 years old tree is around 40 000€, but this is obviously an exceptional piece. However, as I also grow myself young trees from cuttings, and make bonsais on small pieces of bark for instance, you can find items for a budget.
In Olio Veritas – Last question : besides the passion for the olive tree, do you also like the fruit and the oil ?
Naruoka Suichi – Of course ! My father and I, we eat a lot of olive oil, every day and as of the breakfast regarding my father, who also cooks some of his pastries with it. I’m a friend of Kenta and Rie from Enshu Olives, whom you will meet soon, and I like their olive oil very much. Another friend of mine in Hamamatsu imports quality olive oil from Europe, and I especially like a Portuguese one, that I will let you taste. Unfortunately, so far a lot of Japanese people can’t make the difference between high and low quality for olive oil, but things may change !