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What's Koi

The story of Nishikigoi's early life

The appearance of Nishikigoi dates back to the second half of the eighteenth century at the latest. The oldest literature that cites the history of Nishikigoi’s progress is “Nouka no Fukugyouteki youri-hou” (growing koi as a side business in a farming village) written by Hidekane Koshida, which was published by Nigata Prefecture Agriculture Association.


“Nouka no Fukugyouteki youri-hou”

It relates the development of “Sarasa” (red and white koi) from the Bunka and the Bunsei period (1804~1829) to the Tempou period (1830~1843).
Its outline is as follows:
1. Not only Magoi (black carp) but also some Higoi (reddish carp) and Shirogoi (white carp) were being bred.
2. White koi with markings on the abdomen were produced by crossing Higoi and Shirogoi.
3. White koi with markings only on the gill cover were produced. They were commonly called “Houaka” (red cheeks) or “Sutton.”
4. As the improvement of koi advanced during the Tenpou period, “Zukin-kaburi” (white koi with red markings on half of the forehead), “Men-kaburi” (white koi with red markings all over the head), and “Kuchibeni” (white koi with red markings on the lips) were produced.
5. Further experiments enabled to produce “Sarasa” (white koi with red markings on the back) were produced.


This is an obvious memoir of koi that were called “Sarasa.” However, what Koshida’s authority for stating these things is unknown. His theory is that white koi with red markings were produced by crossing Higoi and Shirogoi. However, the appearance of red markings is exactly the same as the process of Narumi Asagi’s gaining red body markings.


Kohaku and Ki Utsuri in the Taisho era

White koi with red markings were observed as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century. It may be all right to say that there were some ornamental carps in the eighteenth century. Whether the names “Houaka” and “Sutton” were from that time or Koshida’s original expression is unknown.

As Nishikigoi gained popularity, the number of koi keepers magnificently increased and some expensive koi began to appear on the market around 1875 (Meiji 8). Therefore, the start of Industrialization of colored carp can be attributed to the Meiji era.

In 1914 (Taisho 3), producers in the main producing district (Higashi-yamamura and Takezawa villages) had a discussion and displayed 23 select koi under the name of “kawarigoi” at the Taisho Exposition. They won the second prize. During the Exposition, then Crown Prince and later Showa Emperor, observed so enthusiastically that eight koi were presented to His Imperial Highness. The colored koi’s popularity at the exposition was known nationwide. The next year, some koi dealer came from Kyoto and many dealings with koi began. The going rate for koi soared and koi farming in Nijumura suddenly started to hum. The local people were finally convinced that colored koi farming could be a promising business.

In 1889 (Meiji 22), a Sarasa was improved into excellent Kohaku, called “Gosuke Sarasa” by Kunizou Hiroi (farm name of Utogi-no-Gosuke) of Higashiyama village. “Gosuke Sarasa” hereditarily excelled. During the Meiji era, some excellent lines were produced by Tarokichi Hiroi (farm name of Utogi-no-Eisuke) and some others. During the Taisho era, Asazou Takano of Gennojou in Takezawa, and during the Showa era, Genji Hoshino of Tomoin in Takezawa produced many splendid Kohaku.

It was by chance that Heitarou Satou of Heiemon in Uragara produced Sanke. Later, Eizaburou Hoshino obtained the koi and added it to his koi parents. From this crossing, various magnificent three colored koi were produced. He named them Taisho Sanshoku.

Ki Utsuri was already seen in the Meiji era. Eizaburou Hoshino produced its abundant productive line in 1921 (Taisho 10) and the line became a fixed kind of koi. Ki Utsuri was once said more expensive than gold.

In 1924 (Taisho 13), Kazuo Minemura of Mushigame, Outa village succeeded in the production of Shiro Utsuri. The next year he grew many Shiro Utsuri. They were still not a fixed kind of koi but considered as a new type of koi.

Later koi were actively displayed at exhibitions and fairs, and gradually surpassed goldfish as ornamental fish in spring ponds. People tried to export them and some sample koi were sent to San Francisco.

The history of koi in the Showa era owes a lot to Doitsugoi. It was Shinnosuke Matsubara, chief of the Fisheries Training School of Agriculture and Commerce Ministry who first imported Doitsugoi in 1904 (Meiji 37).

Kichigorou Akiyama, who was running a goldfish shop in Tokyo, crossed Doitsugoi with Asagi, and produced Shusui. The name was fixed around the beginning of Taisho era. Shusui was later brought into the Yamakoshi district around 1921 (Taisho 10).

Later in 1927 (Showa 2), Jyukichi Hoshino of Ouuchi-no-Jintarou in Takezawa produced Showa Sanshoku. The first Showa Sanshoku was not completed in Sumi and Hi qualities, but was fixed as a new type of koi. After that, various unique koi were produced and the Nishikigoi business was heading to its prosperous time. By the way, the expression “unique koi” means that the koi are not fixed but the only koi of its kind.

It was “Ogon” that widened the variety of koi as one of the two greatest kinds of Doitsugoi. Sawata Aoki in Takezawa village first produced it in 1947 (Showa 22). It was crossed with almost all kinds of koi and produced many new types of koi.


Mitsukura (Grand Champion at the 1st Niigata Prefecture Agricultural Festival)


The first Ogon & Mr. Sawata Aoki

Eight koi were presented then Crown Prince (Showa Emperor)



Hatsu-botan

Goten-zakura

Hi-botan

Hi-no-kabuto

Hi-odoshi

Shu-zakura

Tatsuta-gawa

Unryu