Bonsai Sizes!!!

Am I the only person to find the sizing classifications of bonsai a real pain?

Everywhere I look on the Internet I see different classifications. Some are similar and some have no resemblance at all. Some are classes in themselves and others call the same thing a sub category of a size class.

Peter, from Willowbog Bonsai, queried my sizing of a Trident Maple I have in another post. He was spot on, I had it down as a Kifu size tree when Chuhin would be more accurate. I could also call it Katade-mochi!

The Japanese Maple I call Chuhin could be called Kifu , although some would say Kifu is a sub category of Chuhin and others don’t even mention kifu as a size at all.

From what little I know about all this, in Japan they don’t worry too much about sizes and measuring tapes are never seen at exhibition. It’s more down to the feel of the tree than the dimensions.

I know there are some very knowledgeable folk out there reading this, either for amusement or through friendship 😀 , Id be interested to here your views.

Here are some of the sizes I have stumbled across on the net.

I have added Peter’s and my own comments from the other post below to explain how this topic became my focus for the morning 🙂

peter snart says:

is Kifu not between shohin and chuhin ?? surely that trident is a fairly big tree ??
they all look very well !! lots of nice maples throughout the UK lost following the last 2 winters !!

Sizes confuse me a tad to be honest. Everything I read contradicts! Some don’t have Kifu at all. I have done a bit more googling this morning and have come to the decision that no one agrees on this at all. The Japanese Maple above, that I have called Chuhin, is 28 cm tall and could be called Kifu or Chuhin. The Trident is 48cm tall and, as you say would be better called Chuhin as well. However it could also be called Katade-mochi! There seems to be about 3 different size classification for Bonsai out there. Considering how complicated bonsai is, this doesn’t surprise me! :-) I think I’ll just stick to calling the Trident ‘Stratford’ to differentiate it from the others :-D Might be worth a post on the blog about this ;-)

peter snart says:

I sympathise with what you say !! I was lucky enough to win best Kifu at the N.Trophy a few years back with a P. densiflora that I thought was shohin , talking to Marco about it later he claimed to have never heard of Kifu despite his time in Japan ! many years ago in B.Today there was an interesting article that had been taken from Kinbon, where a few Japanese masters got together to discuss what constituted bunjin style , the consensus seemed to me, at least, to be that a tree had to ” feel ” like a bunjin to the viewer !!!! never mind thinking about style criteria , I think the size issue is a bit like that as well , no matter what a tape measure says, the bonsai has to ” feel ” like a shohin , chuhin or whatever , John Armitage reports that he has never seen a tape measure used in shohin bonsai shows in Japan , they are more interested in just enjoying the trees than worrying about size , of course , the other side to that is that I suppose generally folk know what is appropriate for each show and what it not !! I good example is bunjin style in the shohin category , this style of bonsai can be still shohin and yet be much taller than the 22 or 25 cms height limit !! alternatively I believe that a tree that in all respects seems ” big ” can be within the height limit for chuhin and yet not really be appropriate for the category .
confusing ? perhaps just to western minds !!!

6 comments on “Bonsai Sizes!!!

  1. difficult, I guess, for others to get a real sense of how big your trees are Ian , the advantage I have is in being fairly familiar with them ,
    for me the trident that originally sparked these comments is too big even for chuhin , even if it is within height limits , the committee of the British Shohin Assoc. is keen to inlude more chuhin size trees in next year’s show but I reckon we would not be keen to include that tree , whereas your palmatum is very much chuin in all respects, but it , I think , is too ” heavy ” to be classed as kifu !!
    the BSA had a trident and a hornbeam in it’s first show about the same size as your trident but they were considered to big really, but we were, and are still not, in the business of dissuading folk from participating by enforcing strict criteria !! the shohin specific shows in Japan always seem to include a perecentage of chuhin trees but the essence of the show remains one for the smaller classes of bonsai and folk seem to recognise that !


  2. incidentley , I was quite surprised to learn , some long time after the original forming and naming of the BSA , that the Japanese word ” shohin ‘ is not in any way bonsai specific and just refers to ” small things ” !! so we have been running the British Small Things Association for the past 6 or so years , plenty more ” small things ” we might feature in the show perhaps ?????


    • LOL BSBA it is then! Doesn’t roll off the tongue.

      I have now re categorised bonsai sizes for Ireland, I hope it catches on. It’s dead simple. We now have ‘Wee Wee Trees’ and Big Wee Trees’.If you are spotted with a measuring tape, you are dragged outside and beaten ;-D

      Liked by 1 person

  3. that sounds about the right approach 🙂 !!! but what about ‘ middling wee trees ‘ ? mind you don’t get an ‘ m ‘ and a ‘ p ‘ mixed up !


    • That’s not a bad idea! We can use both, we can use piddling for the old shito/mame, and middling in the middle somewhere.
      We have to keep this reasonably complicated or no one will have anything to talk about on the forums 😀 😀


  4. Pingback: shohin, mame : quelles sont les tailles de bonsai ?

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