Utsurimono is a class of koi that, by definition, is a non-metallic black color combined with a secondary color. It is one of the classifications considered for judging purposes. Shiro Utsuri koi is the most common type in this class, and it is held in very high regard. At some koi shows in the United States, the Shiro Utsuri competes alongside the go-sanke: kohaku, sanke and showa.
Shiro Utsuri is a black and white koi with a checkerboard design. Most koi enthusiasts can correctly identify a Shiro Utsuri with its bold, two-colored block pattern. But, did you know that there are other varieties in the Utsurimono class? The Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri variations are often hard to find, but they add great diversity to any koi collection.
Colors of Utsuri Variations
The Hi Utsuri is a black koi with red as its secondary color. Hi is the Japanese term for red on the Utsuri. However, the color is generally not a true “fire-engine red” — hi appears as orange or reddish orange in this variation.
Regardless of which variation you are looking at, both Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri have black (sumi) as the base, which may not be straightforwardly apparent, because the pattern and colors develop as the fish ages.
Patterns of Utsuri Variations
The pattern on all Utsuri koi, regardless of color, is a wrapping style. Two colors appear as large segments or blocks of color. Each color wraps all the way around the fish to its belly, or below the lateral line along its sides. The pigments form wide swaths of color. Black is the primary color. The secondary color of either red or yellow alternates with the black sumi areas. The colors intertwine to form an interesting wraparound pattern. This bold, banded design is commonly referred to as a checkerboard. The blocks of alternating colors resemble the design of game boards we have been familiar with since childhood.
Utsuri variation patterns are held to the same standards as that of the Shiro Utsuri. Along with the requirement of being a “wrap” style, the pattern should begin on the head and continue to the fish’s caudle fin, or tail. Ideally, the patches of color should not be marred with random specks of the other color. Specks or freckles can be distracting or can make the koi seem messy or dirty. These blemishes are called shimis.
Markings on the head are also expected on Utsuri variations. Menware (men-war-ē), or a lightning strike, is the most popular head pattern. Sumi forms a zigzag design from the tip of the nose through the head to the shoulder region. It may continue to spread down the cheeks or join with patches of sumi on the fish’s body. A well-balanced pattern from front to back and side to side on either Hi Utsuri or Ki Utsuri is ideal.
Scales & Fins on Utsuri Variations
Sumi in the fins is also customary on all Utsuri. A blend of the two colors adds to the beauty of the pattern, and it can actually help to balance a lopsided one. Stripes of sumi on the pectoral fins are common instead of a concentrated spot of black at the base, which is commonly seen on Shiro Utsuri (moto-goro). Sumi stripes are usually present on the dorsal fin and caudal fin as well. Solid black fins are often common on young Utsuri.
Most of the Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri that you come across will be fully scaled. Gin Rin scales (sparkly light reflecting scales) are a rarity, as well as Doitsu (scale-less) types.
For more information on correctly identifying koi varieties, be sure to check out illustrations of the varieties at the Kloubec Koi website: www.kloubeckoi.com/ellens-koi-education.