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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 or
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.