In Japanese, the word Hikari means metallic, while Muji means plain or solid. Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising that Hikari Muji is a beautiful variety of koi with a metallic body but no color pattern.
The major varieties of Hikari Muji include Ogon, Plachina (platinum), Aka Matsuba Ogon, Gin Matsuba and more. The metallic bodies of Matsuba Ogon and Gin Matsuba display patterns similar to a pine cone.
However, these pine cones are not really color patterns, like Kohaku displays. Rather, they are a kind of scale pattern. So these Matsuba varieties belong to this group as well.
The most important varieties of Hikari Muji are definitely Ogon and Plachina. Their importance lies not only in the fact that they are new varieties, but also in their role as the foundation of even more varieties.
Aka Matsuba Ogon, Gin Matsuba, Ogon and Plachina were crossed with other patterned varieties to produce a lot more new varieties, such as Hariwake, Yamato Nishiki, Gin Shiro Utsuri, Kin Ki Utsuri and others. These patterned metallic varieties are related to Hikari Moyo, which I will cover in the next issue, and Hikari Utsuri, which I have covered in the past.
## History ##
Mr. Sawata Aoki developed the first Ogon. After finding a carp with some metallic shine in a river, he had dreamed about breeding a whole golden-bodied koi. He finally developed it in 1947, about 30 years later. Comparing to what we see nowadays, it is not as golden. But it was definitely an epoch-making creation.
Plachina was developed by Tadao Yoshioka in 1963 by crossing Nezu Ogon and Akame Kigoi.
## Characteristics ##
Because Hikari Muji has no color pattern, other facets of its look become far more important. When appreciating this beautiful variety, consider the following:
### 1) Body conformation ###
Going back to the basics of koi appreciation, three important factors that determine the beauty of koi are body, quality and pattern, in that order. Because this variety of koi does not have any color pattern, the importance of body conformation is great. As you may know, Ogon is especially known for big appetites. They eat a lot and tend to grow big quickly and build great body conformation.
### 2) Sheen ###
Because this Hikari Muji is metallic, the strength of its shine is the life of the koi. When breeders cull fries, removing less-than-ideal fish from the gene pool, this is the first thing they look at. Any dull shine will be eliminated right away. It is ideal to have the strong and constant shine from the face through the tail. It may be difficult to tell the quality of sheen when they are small. Please look at the head and the pectoral fins, selecting ones with head and fins that shine strongly.
### 3) Fukurin ###
Fukurin is a netting pattern formed by gaps between koi scales. When koi are small, all their scales are tightly laid out. There are no gaps. But as koi grow larger — especially when they grow quickly, like Ogon does — the scales start to grow more slowly in relation to the growth of the body. That is when gaps begin to show, and those gaps become Fukurin! Because Hikari Muji do not have actual scale color patterns, Fukurin is one of the few highlights of the variety. How well it appears greatly impacts the value of Hikari Muji like Ogon.
In the past, Fukurin was seen only on a few varieties, like Ogon, because only Ogon can grow big so quickly. Now, however, we see Fukurin on most varieties. On other varieties, if there are no Fukurin, it does not mean the fish are of lower quality. If there are, it will simply add extra value to the koi. This is a very important term and concept. If you have not known it yet, I strongly recommend you learn at this opportunity.
## Selling Hikari Muji ##
Everybody must have at least one Ogon and one Plachina. So selling those metallic koi may not be difficult. When handling small koi, be sure to explain the importance of sheen. The fish’s bodies all look the same, and Fukurin will not be visible yet. But when handling medium to large size koi, the body conformation and Fukurin come to play for your sales talk. Because body and Fukurin heavily rely on bloodlines, please make sure you buy those from the trusted breeders.
Breeding these simple koi looks easy, so I am sure that many domestic and foreign breeders produce them. But I think that no varieties are as difficult to breed as Hikari Muji. Because its look is so simple, any small flaw — like a small Hi spot or minor disorder of scales — will impact its beauty right away. These small flaws will not be seen when they are small, but as the koi grow, they will come out. This is another reason why I so greatly stress the importance of bloodline. Bloodline is the only thing that assures the future quality of koi.
As for Ogon, the number-one bloodline comes from Izumiya, a breeder in Niigata, Japan. His Ogon has won Best in Variety at the All Japan Koi Show many times. As for Plachina, there are several breeders. Yamacho Koi Farm is probably the best place to go.
With this knowledge, you’ll be able to appreciate Hikari Muji in a whole new way.