In Japanese, the word asagi refers to a light indigo color. So when we appreciate the unique beauty of the Asagi variety of koi, it’s obvious where the name came from. Although Asagi may seem to be a plain koi at first, this beautiful fish plays a very important role in the history of koi.
When I think about how a black carp turned into more than 100 different varieties of koi over several hundreds of years, I cannot help but be surprised and impressed with the talent, patience and craftsmanship of the people who made it possible. They lived in a very small area of Japan, in the villages of Ojiya and Yamakoshi.
As the original ancestors of koi, black carp were a food source for those people. But while the people of these small towns raised the carp, something interesting happened: the fish started showing some colors, such as blue and red, by mutation.
Of these early black carp, Asagi was the first colorful variety developed — and from then on, Asagi became the origin of all the beautiful koi we enjoy today.
It is very interesting to study how Kohaku was developed from Asagi. Today, living proof that Kohaku was developed from Asagi exists in living fish like the one in the photo above. Just like her, Asagi has characteristics of turning indigo blue to white on the body. Since the variety is fixed nowa- days, you won’t see this phenomenon a lot … but in the old days, the color seemed to be influenced a lot by the clay and water quality. Then, by crossbreeding with red koi, which also came out by mutation, red on the belly started emerging on the surface of the body and forming red patches. That was the beginning of a new variety: Kohaku.
### Appreciation of Asagi ###
In Asagi appreciation, there are mainly three things you need to know. The first is “clean face,” the second is amime and the third is the hi pattern. Let’s look at them one by one.
#### Clean face ####
Because this variety has indigo pigments underneath by nature, its face tends to stay a bit bluish. A clean and white face would be ideal. Being bluish is not a bad thing as long as it stays clear. We just do not want to see a dirty face with indigo spots. You may not see these spots when koi are young, but they may develop as they grow up. So when looking at a young koi, how can we tell if the bluish spots will develop or not? Once again, you have no other way but to check the koi’s parents and breeders.
Amime means “netting pattern” in Japanese. Because Asagi is such a simple koi, a beautiful indigo netting pattern is key. Every scale should have consistent and beautiful indigo, and each should be laid out perfectly.
#### Hi pattern ####
Unlike most koi, Asagi has a pattern on its side. Hi on the cheek is called yakko, and yakko is very important to have. An ideal look is for hi to go all the way along the lateral line equally. Asagi is also one of a few varieties that actu- ally changes or develops a hi pattern. (Most koi with hi do not change their red pattern.) So when Asagi are young, they may not show all the hi pattern on their sides. When I was in Japan, Mr. Hosokai, a top Asagi breeder, said that he looked only at yakko when culling babies. He said if a koi had nice quality yakko, although there was no hi on the side, he would keep it because hi would develop later on. He also said he would cull out babies with no yakko no matter how excellent their amime quality was.
Asagi is an important variety, and a great deal of breeders breed them. But I usually go to only a few breeders for the quality of their Asagi. Otsuka Koi Farm is excellent, and Hosokai Koi Farm is an established farm of Asagi as well. Finally, Oya Koi Farm produces truly amazing beauty. A few of his grown-up Asagi have a tint of ginrin on every scale. The beauty is beyond description.
Marketing Asagi can sometimes be challenging because it is not that fancy — especially to beginners. But it is also true that the more you study, the more you get addicted. Thus, it is imperative to teach your clients the historical meaning and importance of this koi and show them how to appreciate the classic beauty. Then you will enjoy the moment when, all of a sudden, Asagi becomes a “must-have” variety in your client’s pond.