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The Varieties of Koi

The Varieties of Koi:

 is the most popular variety of Nishikigoi. So much so that there is an  expression, Koi avocation begins and ends with Kohaku. It is also the  most abstruse. There are various tones of “red”€ color  red with thick  crimson, light red, highly homogeneous red, blurred red, and so on. And  there are all sorts of Kiwa (the edge of the pattern)€ -scale-wide  Kiwa, razor-sharp Kiwa, and Kiwa resembling the edge of a torn blanket,  etc. Shades of white ground (skin) are quite diversified too skin with soft shade of fresh-unshelled, hardboiled egg, skin with hard shade of  porcelain, yellowish skin, and so forth

2.TAISHO SANSHOKU (SANKE) are Kohaku added with Sumi (black markings). Taisho Sanshoku have more  varied patterns than Kohaku due to the highly variable Sumi. Inspection  of Taisho Sanshoku can, therefore, begin with observation of red  patterns. And observation of red pattern may be done as explained under  “Kohaku.”€ Sumi have different quality according to koi’s ancestry.  Taisho Sanshoku of the Sadozo linage appear to have more Sumi of round  shape with deep insertion of patterns. The hidden black markings  appearing on the bluish skin will become glossy, fine Sumi. Taisho  Sanshoku of the Jinbei lineage have massive Sumi of good quality.  However, this Sumi may get cracked or break into pieces (pebble Sumi)  when the Koi get older.

3.SHOWA SANSHOKU (SHOWA) Whereas Kohaku and Taisho Sanshoku have red and/ or black markings on  the white ground, Showa Sanshoku have red markings on white patterns  formed on the black background. We have discerned such different  arrangement by observing the processes of fry development. Kohaku and  Taisho Sanshoku are almost completely white when freshly hatched. Young  fry of Showa varieties (including Showa Sanshoku, Shiro Utsuri and Hi  Utsuri, etc.), on the other hand, are almost completely black when just  emerged from eggs. As days go by, white patterns become visible against  the black background, and red markings will soon appear on the white  patterns. We should, therefore, say that Showa Sanshoku have black  texture. The Sumi of Showa Sanshoku are very different from that of  Taisho Sanshoku. While the latter look more like western oil-paintings,  the former carry the tone of oriental black-and-white paintings (with  ink). In other words, the Sumi of Showa Sankshoku seem to be all  connected below the surface. Consequently, Showa Sanshoku appear quite  magnificent.


are derived from the same lineage as Showa Sanshoku which I mentioned  before. They too have black skin, and are divided according to the color of interlacing markings into Shiro Utsuri (contrasted by white  markings), Hi Utsuri (contrasted by red markings)€ and Ki Utsuri  (contrasted by yellow markings). Like in Showa Sanshoku, Sumi of Shiro  Utsuri should essentially covers the nose, side faces (Menware for  diverging head pattern) and pectoral fin joints (Motoguro for black  base). Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri have red and yellow markings respectively in place of white ones on Shiro Utsuri. The body of Hi Utsuri and Ki  Utsuri has the same Sumi as Shiro Utsuri, but their pectoral fins do not show Motoguro, but are striped instead. Formerly Utsurimono were  produced mostly as by-products of Showa Sanshoku breeding. Recently,  however, very high quality Utsurimono have been bred with excellent  Shiro Utsuri on one or both sides of parentage. Hi Utsuri continue to be born as the by-products of Showa Sanshoku breeding. However, we have  seen very little of Ki Utsuri lately.

are produced in the process of breeding Taisho Sanshoku. They,  therefore, have the same Sumi as Taisho Sanshoku, which as a rule should not appear in the head region. Bekko are grouped by the color of skin  into Shiro (white) Bekko, a.k.a. (red) Bekko and Ki (yellow) Bekko,.  Nowadays we seldom come across Ki Bekko, and a.k.a. Bekko don’t seem to  win upper prizes at unless they have considerably high quality red and  well balanced Sumi. Accordingly, we can reasonably assume the term  Bekko is usually used to mean Shiro Bekko. Both Shiro Bekko and Shiro  Utsuri have black and white markings only, and the white ground must be  milky white so as to bring Sumi out into prominence. The white ground in the head region is especially liable to amber discoloration. Koi with  jet-black markings on the milky white skin which covers the whole body  look indescribably refined

are said to have been produced by crossing Kohaku with Asagi. Kohaku,  Taisho Sanshoku and Showa Sanshoku which have indigo tinge over-laying  the red patterns are called Ai-goromo (blue garment), Koromo Sanshoku,  and Koromo Showa respectively. Crescent markings of Koromo usually show  up on the scales of red patches. Koi with distinct, blue crescents  arranged in an orderly manner are highly valued. High quality Koromo  such as this are tastefully charming  the kind favored by Koi experts.  The blue color of Koromo seem to gradually grow darker as the Koi grow  older. Accordingly, the blue color of seemingly right tone in small Koi  often becomes too dark when the Koi grow big, and the blue color showing right tone on big Koi, on the other hand, were in many cases overly  light tone when the Koi were still small. This fact, therefore, should  be taken into careful consideration when buying Koromo.

This category includes all Koi with shiny body but devoid of any  markings. Hikari-muji are divided into Yamabuki Ogon (with pure yellow, metallic sheen on the entire body), Platinum Ogon (with shining  platinum color), Orange Ogon (with orange sheen), Kin Matsuba  (literally β€˜golden pine needles, for individual, glittering scales  appearing like raised markings), and Gin Matsuba (literally silvery  pine needles,for glittering scales on the platinum ground which look  like raised markings), etc. As they don’t have any markings, the  condition of luster and body conformation become the essential points  for appreciation of Hikari-muji group. Excellent luster is the one which covers the whole body evenly. Generally, Koi of Hikari-muji group  readily get used to humans. With hearty appetite, they tend to grow  over-sized bellies. However, good shape body, covering from the head to  breast and abdomen.

are Koi of Showa Utsurimono group (Showa Sanshoku, Shiro Utsuri, and Hi Utsuri, etc.) displaying Hikari (luster or glitter),€ and include Kin Showa (with lustrous gold color),€ Gin Shiro Utsuri (with platinum  sheen), and Kin Ki Utsuri (literally golden yellow Utsuri). The  point of appreciating this group is of course the intensity of the  Hikari, the very characteristic of the Hikarimono group. Their markings  are similar to those of Showa Sanshoku and Utsurimono group mentioned  before. The tone of gold and Sumi is deeper, the better. However, there  is an intricate aspect which we have to pay close attention. Both Hikari and Sumi pigment have a tendency to cancel each other most Koi with  strong Hikari have deep Sumi. Consequently, Koi having strong Hikari and firm Sumi at the same time are very rare.

comprise all shiny Koi excepting Hikari-muji and Hikari Utsuri  mentioned before. They include Hariwake€ with patterns of gold blended with platinum skin, Yamato-nishiki (Japanese brocade) with patterns  of Taisho Sanshoku shining on platinum skin, and Kujaku Ogon (peacock  gold) with shiny Goshiki (five colors) patterns. Beside these three  major kinds, there are also Kinsui (literally brocaded water, for  shiny Shusui with lots of Hi) and Shochikubai (literally pine, bamboo and plum, for shiny Ai-goromo with wave indigo patterns). These are  rarely seen today. Like in all other Kikarimono groups, strong Kikiari  is essential. This is followed by bold patterns. The color patterns  well-balanced on the entire body are desirable.


Koi with a red head patch are called Tancho.€ Most common are Tancho  Kohaku (all-white Koi with Tancho), Tancho Sanshoku (white Koi with  Sumi similar to Shiro Bekko, and with Tancho),€ and Tancho Showa (Showa Sanshoku without red markings except for Tancho),€ etc. However,  Tancho Goshiki (Koi of five colors with Tancho),€ and Tancho Hariwake€ are rare. Tancho do not form a single, independent kind of Nishikigoi;  they all can be bred from Kohaku, Taisho Sankshoku or Showa Sanshoku.  Their red patch happen to show up only in the head region. Tancho,  therefore, can not be produced in bulk even if you so wish. The  essential point for appreciation is the red patch in the head region, of course. The red head patch sitting right at the center of the head  region is the best. The white skin is also important as it is the milky  white color that sets the red head patch off to advantage. The Sumi of  Tancho Sanshoku and Tancho Showa are the same as Bekko and Shiro Utsuri  respectively

Koi with shiny golden or silvery scales are called Kinginrin.€ Shining white scales are referred to as Ginrin,€ and shining scales within red markings as Kinrin.€ Ginrin are further classified by their appearance into Tama (ge)-gin, Pearl-ginrin and Diamond-ginrin, etc.  Diamond-ginrin shine most brilliantly among all Ginrin, and seem to  appear distinctly all over the body. Kinginrin have been bred into  almost all varieties of Nishikigoi. However, Kohaku, Taisho Sanshoku,  Showa Sanshoku and Kikarimono, etc. with ginrin seem to rank high in  viewing value, as may be expected. The point for appreciation is of  course the intensity of ginrin’s glitter. Koi with distinct ginrin from  the shoulder to the back are highly valued.

12.Doitsu (German-Koi)
lineage does not mean Nishikigoi bred in Germany, but rather those  Crossbred with Japanese Koi and black carp imported originally for food  from Germany. They differ from ordinary Nishikigoi (or β€œβ€˜Wagoi’ meaning  Japanese Koi) in scale arrangement. Doitsu Koi with lines of scales on  the back and along the lateral lines are called β€œKagami-goi (mirror  carp),” and those without scales or with only one line of scales on each side along the base of the dorsal fin, β€œKawas-goi (leather carp?).”  Nowadays, Doitsu Koi are crossbred into almost all varieties of  Nishikigoi. Doitsu Koi are to be viewed for the orderliness of scale  arrangement and the absence of unnecessary scales. Each Koi should have  the features characteristic of its own original variety, of course.


are fairly classical from a genealogical point of view, and constitute a very tasteful variety. They usually have blue on the entire back and Hi on the belly, pectoral fins and gill covers. The scales on the back  have whitish base and thus collectively give an appearance of meshes of a net. The important viewing points are conspicuously vivid appearance of the meshes and light blue, spotless head region. However, as they age,  black spots often appear in the head region and Hi on the belly tend to  climb up reaching as far as the back.

have been crossbred between Doitsu Koi and Asagi, and their points for  appreciation, therefore, are basically the same as those for Asagi.  Shusui also have the tendency to show black spots in the head region as  they grow big. Koi with spotless head region are valued highly, of  course. The arrangement of scales is also important. It is desirable  that scales are visible only the back and the regions of lateral lines  no undesirable scales in any other place. Hi on the belly covering over the lateral lines are showy.


are said to have been crossbred between Asagi and Taisho Sanshoku not yet an established theory, however. They also form a very tasteful  variety of Nishikigoi. Goshiki used to be included in the Kawarimono  group. However, with recent production of fairly excellent Goshike, they are now being treated as an independent variety at Nishikigoi shows.  Their red markings are similar in patterns to Kohaku, but may not be  taken as seriously. Some scales of Asagi may also appear in the red  markings. The meshes appearing only on the white ground will, on the  other hand, contrast strikingly with mesh less Hi.

Koi not included in the fifteen varieties mentioned so far are grouped  as Kawarimono. They are Karasu-goi (crow carp, with coal black  body), Hajiro (literally white wings for crow carp whose pectoral  fins are white at the tip),€ Kumonryu (German Koi of Hajiro strain with white head), Ki-goi (yellow carp), Cha-goi (brown carp). Matsuba  (literally pine needles), and Beni-goi (crimson carp),€ etc. They  have been produced only in samll numbers, and large-size Kavarimono are  even fewer. They are appreciated above all by their originality or  unconventionality. The rarer they are encountered even with active  search, the higher is their value. So far I explained briefly the  different viewing points for individual varieties of Nishikigoi

However, actual enjoyment of Nishikigoi should be free from fixed ideas or  obsession. Even the most superb Koi surely has some minor flaws. Being  enmeshed in such minor flows, we will fail to size up the real value of  the Koi. Accordingly, the most important thing in judging a Koi is to  place great importance on the first impressions gained by you the  moment the Koi meets your eyes. It is also important to fully understand the koi’s qualities on the credit side.

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