You may ask – why a separate page for Shohin? Aren’t they just smaller bonsai?
Apart from being harder to keep alive, the biggest difference between Shohin (and Mame) and ‘normal’ bonsai is the way they are displayed. Large trees are usually displayed as stand alone sepecimins, on a stand and possibly with an accent plant or figure. Shohin display is much more complex.
Shohin are dislpayed as a multiple item display of three to nine elements – such as bonsai trees an accent plant, an ornament and / or a scroll. Shohin are not normally displayed as a stand alone tree.
At Japanese exhibitions such as Kokufu, the rule is that no two elements are the same:
• All the species of tree must be diﬀerent;
• All the trees must be diﬀerent styles;
• All the pots must be diﬀerent shape and colour;
• All the trees must be on their own stand on the larger stand;
• All the individual stands must be diﬀerent
Here in New Zealand we realise that these ‘rules’ can only be used as aspirational guidelines.
The position of each tree within the display is governed by directional flow of the tree as well as the species, with conifers such as pines being placed at the top and flowering trees such as cotoneaster at the lowest level.
More modern displays can use different materials and shapes.
As a general guide the maximum height of a Shohin is around 20 cm from the rim of the pot however this is flexible as it is important that all trees in a Shohin set have similar visual weight.
The current maximum height of Shohin for the NZBA Nationa Show is 25cm from the rim of the pot.
Shohin usually have a 1 to 4 scale. This means the tree height is only 4 x the thickness of the base of the trunk, rather than the normal 1 to 6 scale.
Again there are exceptions to this for Literati Shohin and ‘Sumo’ Shohin – trees with very short fat trunks. (some times 1 to 2 scale)
The species of trees used for Shohin are usually ones with small leaves, small flowers, and berries rather than fruit for good scale.
The one exception to this is ‘The Cute Factor’ – small bonsai and very large fruit or flowers
Care and maintenance can also be a little more involved when it comes to watering Shohin in the summer in particular. Otherwise they are fed, re-potted, pruned, wired, jinned and carved just like the larger size bonsai.