Now YOU can learn the Japanese names of all
the KOI fish you see at koi shows,
and in the videos.. Listed below are all the major
classifications of koi patterns
Japanese KOI Classifications & Patterns
The Kohaku 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.
Taisho Sanshoku 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.
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.
or SHIRO UTSURI
Utsurimono 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
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.
Bekko 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.
Koromo 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 '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.
Hikari utsuri 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.
Hikari-moyo 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
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
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.
Doitsu 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 "'Wagoi'
meaning Japanese Koi) in scale arrangement.
Doitsu Koi with lines of scales on the back and along the
lateral lines are called "Kagami-goi (mirror carp)," and those
without scales or with only one line of scales on each side
along the base of the dorsal fin, "Kawas-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.
Asagi 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.
Shusui 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.
Goshike 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
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.