Early development of Shohin?

Hi guys,

I’m new here. Just starting to explore the world of bonsai. Wonderful content here on Mirai (I’ve watched over 40 hours of material in the last 2 weeks).

I have a question about creating Shohin. In the Shohin 101 I’ve learned a lot about the different aspects of Shohin that are already pretty developed. But how do I approach the development if I start from a seedling? How do I accomplish a thick trunk on a Shohin while still maintaining good taper?

From what I understand is that in order to achieve a big trunk you need to let the tree grow freely for a couple of years. In the picture below you can see a maple the I’ve been growing in a box for a few years now. The trunk is not nearly as thick as I want it to be and it is already way to high to call it Shohin.

Do I have to let it grow until the desired thickness and hope that there will be a branch low enough to make a hard cut? Or do I have to approach this in another way? I would love to get some suggestions from you guys!

Greetings from the Netherlands.



Most people trunk chop the tree down to a lower branch and then have that lower branch be the new trunk, let it grow a few years and repeat, grow and repeat. This is how they get great movement and taper, but it takes a lot of time, patients, and knowledge on how and when to make the chops and how to heal the wounds.

The trick with maple would appear to be to let it grow big enough to get thickening before you chop, but not so big that yo have unsightly scares.

Sounds like you are gettin an enthusiastic start!
Before you go and chop this tree, what do the roots and nebari look like?
This is where i would recommend starting with a piece of material like this. However, since the tree has already leafed out your window for root work has passed.
I would let this grow until next year.
Now would be a bad time to chop the trunk as well.
So basically my advice is do nothing, which for an enthusiastic beginner is probably a terrible thing to hear.
If you want to do some work on some trees right now it would be a good time to find some nursery material that has not yet put out new growth and do some root work to set it up for a solid nebari.
I recommend buying 4 or more of the same tree and working in batches. This also allows for some failure and experimentation.
When selecting nursery material dig down a bit at the base to ensure you have an expanding base. Here is an example of a tree that I have done root work on this season.

This tree had about 4” of soil before hitting the main root ball. In that 4” there were some thicker roots at staggered locations. This would not have produced a good nebari. I removed those down to a point where I had good root distribution at one location. Now as this tree grows it will develop the base I am looking for.
This tree will be left to grow for at least 2 years.

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Also, for more detailed info on developing young trees into bonsai check out bonsaitonight.com
Jonas places a lot of focus on this stage of bonsai.

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It is indeed too late to work on the roots on the tree I showed in my first post. I haven’t touched the roots in the last 2 years so I have no idea what they look like at the moment. I will let this tree grow for another year in this box and check the rootsystem next year. I don’t necessarily want to work at the tree right now, I just wanted to make sure I’m doing the right things keeping in mind that I want to create Shohin.

Most of the material I have is very young because it was very cheap to buy. A few other trees that I have at the moment.

Thanks for the great suggestions everyone!

Out of those trees the quince is your best candidate for a shohin size tree. The others all have fairly long internodes to the first branches.
Not to say that you cannot develop these others into shohin, but I’m not sure that is what the material is giving you.


In the stream with Peter Warren about Acer maintenance, het alsof mentioned some things about growing an Acer.
Something in the line of growing one third of the disired thickness.

There is also a great blog about shohin name. Its Japanees or Chinees, which makes it difficult to read:p But very informatieve:)

Air layering is a very useful technique when creating shohin trees, it gives you a nice flat rootbase at a position of your choosing. For instance you could do an air layer a few centimetres below the first branch, wire the first branch upwards to train as a new trunk leader.

Here is an progression series by Harry Harrington describing how he created a mini Fuji cherry by air layering. Same principles apply for your maple.


Also look up Morten Albek, he has a shohin video subscription service.


Thanks again guys for all the suggestions! I haven’t been able to read all of the information yet but I will definitely do that later this week.

I have some cool seedlings as well to experiment a bit. With all of the suggestions I must be able to make a good start. I’ll keep you guys posted! :smiley: