Styles of Bonsai

As far as I know, historically, there were 3 styles of bonsai: Upright, slanted, and cascade. Over time these styles were refined into 2 additional styles: Informal-upright, and Semi-cascade.

I had found these styles to be too restrictive until I read John Yoshio Naka's book "Bonsai Techniques I". In his book John identified the options for each style and identified other styles that I was not aware of.

This section illustrates those styles and is a partial reprint of the styles found in his book. Special thanks to John Yoshio Naka for allowing us to reprint this information.

Straight Trunk Style (CHOKKAN)

By using available branches, the back branch is placed between the second and third branch.

Branches are upright, which signifies a young tree.

Branches more horizontal with tips pointing slightly upwards.

Using more branches that are slightly slanted downward gives the tree a tall and narrow look.

Branches forced downwards, exposing large trunk.

Slanted Trunk Style (SHAKAN)

SHO-SHAKAN. The first branch is placed on the slanted side of the trunk, with the branches on one side slightly upwards, and on the other side slightly downwards.

SHO-SHAKAN. The first branch is placed in the opposite direction of the slant.

CHU-SHAKAN. The first branch is pulled back to the base of the trunk in order to balance it.

DAI-SHAKAN. The first branch is placed in front and spread to both sides of the trunk, and yet, it does not pierce the eyes.

SHAKAN KOBOKU. Slant style-old stocky trunk. Canyon live oak (golden cup oak). Quercus chrysolepis Liebmann.

Informal Upright Style (MOYOGI)

This is the most popular style of MOYOGI.

Balanced by placing apex straight above the center of truck base.

Slanted trunk upright style. SHAKAN-MOYOGI. The balance is broad with a very stable base.

A slanting trunk, balanced by a strong first branch that is forced extremely downwards.

A heavy, stocky first branch will balance strong spreading rootage.

Cascade Style (KENGAI)

Semi-cascade (HAN-KENGAI) is very close to an extremely slanted trunk style. The apex is placed at tip of tree. Medium depth pot can be used for this style.

A formal cascade.

In the center of the pot the apex and the tip of the cascading portion form a straight line in the very formal style.

GAITO-KENGAI can be likened to a tree growing on a mountain top, with part of it hanging over the cliff. Almost wind swept.

Weeping Branch Style (SHIDARE-ZUKURI)

The trunk is formal upright with weeping branches, arranged as basic CHOKKAN. The branches droop over the lower branches. Outline should form a triangle.

A weeping slanted trunk SHAKAN style.

Weeping MOYOGI style with hollowed trunk.

Semi-cascade HAN-KENGAI style with weeping branches.

Sprout Style (KABUDACHI)

A position where there is an opening and each trunk can be seen is the front. The distance between each trunk must be different. Do not have the trees crossing each other.

In a triple trunk style, the center tree must be either the tallest or shortest, and placed slightly in the rear to create depth.

Every trunk should be divided at the base, so that is looks like an individual tree.

Each tree should have a different height, and that is adjusted by the size of the trunk. Same rule as double trunk style.

Forest or Group Planting (YOSE-UYE)

Keep the space between forest and empty ground in good contrast. There should be more foreground with the trees more to the back. Keep an uneven space on both sides.

The side with the smaller trees should have more space, and gradually taper away. The taller side should be closely spaced and show a sharper grade.

One unit of forest planted radically to the back corner.

Two units of forest planted so that the trees on both ends will keep circling back into the forest, creating a movement.

Three units of forest planted with the same movement in mind.

Taller trees in front, medium size in the middle and smallest toward the back will create better perspective.

Images and content taken from from "Bonsai Techniques I" by John Yoshio Naka under express permission from the author. Dallas Bonsai holds all content and material rights reserved. © 2001 DallasBonsai.com