How to Make a Moyogi Style Bonsai Tree

Moyogi Style Bonsai Tree
Moyogi Style Bonsai Tree


One of my favorite bonsai styles in the Moyogi styled bonsai tree. This style is a variation of the informal upright bonsai style. Before we go further, I want to clear up something. The character, Mr. Miyagi played by Pat Morita in The Karate Kid (1984), maker of bonsai trees, last name is virtually the same as Moyogi style, with the o-vowel changed. I don’t think this was by accident.

Since the aesthetic elements needed for a good Moyogi style bonsai tree are essentially the same as those of the Chokkan or formal upright. The selected tree should have a good taper from top to bottom. The trunk should be centered on the root ball, and it should lack areas of no surface roots. Also, the branches on the selected tree should be asymmetrical and disturbed along the trunk. Branches on different sides of the trunk should not begin at the same elevation. This will be critical as we will discuss later because branches should not extend from the inside of the curve.

One of the overarching goals of bonsai design is to create a tree that shows the effect that nature has thrust upon it. The Moyogi style that shows a plant that would have grown straight and tall except for the natural forces of placement, sun, wind, and precipitation as rain, snow, or ice, over many years.

Once an appropriate tree is selected, it will basically be bent into the shape of an “S.” Everywhere there is a bend, at least one branch should extend from the outside. However, this would create a tree that is roughly in a single plain. Therefore, the “S” should be bent forward, and backward are various points along the route. The tip of the tree should face the viewer and be roughly aligned with the place where the base of the trunk enters the soil.

When bent correctly, the Moyogi style bonsai tree will have elegant lines, and the flow of the tree will be beautiful and natural. Moyogi is one of the most popular and common styles in bonsai. A large variety of plant species, including Pinus, Acer, Juniperus, and Conifers, are suitable for this style. Since so many species work with this style, it is easy to find good working stock at a local nursery.

Moyogi Style Bonsai Tree Drawing
Moyogi Style Bonsai Tree Drawing


Once you have selected your tree and ready to being style, first make sure the tree is securely wired into the pot, so you don’t damage the roots. You can do the bending without wiring the plant in, but you will need an assistant to hold the tree in place while you work.

Next, take strips of raffia that have been soaked in water. Begin wrapping your tree from the bottom of the trunk to near the top. At this point leave the branches unwrapped. Tie the raffia in a, not at the top. Using appropriately sized wire, beginning wiring from the base of the trunk upward. The first few inches of the wire should be pushed into the soil before you start wrapping. Since this wire will be on the tree for a long period of time, I recommend that you wrap the wire somewhat loosely. You can also slide the wire into aquarium air supply tubing to prevent damage as a result of the tree growing into contact with the wire. At this point, many people wrap the truck, raffia, and wire with lightly glued electrical tape. This is not really necessary unless the trunk is extremely large. Once the tree is wired with even wraps, it is time to bend the tree.

The old bonsai joke is you bend the tree until just before it snaps. Of course, you have no way of knowing when it will snap other than through experience. The raffia will help the sap continue to flow if small breaks occur. As you slowly bend your tree, remember to focus on bending the wire and don’t try to bend the wood. Several smaller bends are preferable (and safer) to one large bend. Carefully bend the trunk into an “S” shape working from bottom to top. The bend should begin as low as possible on the tree and ideally should be bending as it emerges from the soil. Remember to bend forward and backward as well. If possible, a nice effect can be created by adding a twist to the trunk at the time of bending.

This is a good time to remove any branches that emanate from the inside of a curve. If there are extra branches are in other locations and need to be removed, look for opportunities to create a jin feature. A jin is a broken branch that is left on the tree to show natural forces and give the illusion of great age in the tree.

Trunk base and apex should be in line

The finished tree should have dense foliage in the shape of an isosceles triangle should be left at the apex of the tree. There should not be any bulges or humps along the trunk, and the taper should be easily visible. Each branch should have a nicely ramified pad of leaves at the end. The largest side branch should be lowest, and they should decrease in size until the smallest branch is at the top.

Dense foliage in the shape of an isosceles triangle

Dense apex foliage in the shape of an isosceles triangle
Branches should not stop in the red area and should extend to the blue

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