Language of Koi | Rare Varieties at the Japan Koi Harvest

Published on December 26, 2021

Taro Kodama is the president of Kodama Koi Farm.

October is the most exciting time of the year for all koi dealers and hobbyists. It is also the time of the koi harvests in Japan. Every day in October, breeders harvest so many living jewels. Before COVID-19, buyers from all over the world came to the small towns of Ojiya and Nagaoka in Niigata, Japan.

I go back to Japan every year to buy koi for my customers. Fortunately, I am a Japanese citizen, so I am permitted to go back to Japan even during the pandemic. I love visiting and buying koi from breeders. Buying beautiful koi is fun and exciting. 

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Sometimes I get lucky and find a rare type of koi swimming in a pond with all the others. That is one of my favorite moments. I feel thankful that nobody had found the koi until I did. In this article, I would like to share some of the rare living jewels I found during my most recent trip to Japan.

Akame Ginrin Platinum 
Red eyes on platinum koi are very rare.

Since the last KHV outbreak in Niigata several years ago, it has been very difficult to find a good source of platinum koi in Niigata. Sakazume Koi Farm became one of the few breeders with this variety. 

When I visited this farm this year, I found very unusual ones. I thought they were regular platinum, but after a closer look, I saw that they had red eyes. I had seen many platinum koi, but never before with red eyes. 

Ki Asagi
Ki Asagi

Asagi is a koi with indigo scales with red marking on its side. It is the first variety of koi in history. Ikarashi Koi Farm is a breeder of this variety.

This koi has beautiful indigo scales like regular Asagi. However, the koi has yellow markings instead of red markings. It is not flashy, but it is still quite rare.

Doitsu Koromo Showa
Doitsu Koromo Showa

When I go to Japan, I take requests from my customers. Doitsu Showa always ends up being atop the list. Along with Shinoda Koi Farm, Hiroi Koi Farm is a good place to find nice ones. 

During this year’s visit to Hiroi Koi Farm, I noticed a koi that had a very balanced Kohaku pattern on clean, scaleless Doitsu skin. Sumi came in beautifully, and we know more sumi development will make her even more beautiful. 

The shadow on the hi plates is what makes this koi special. It is not sumi patches. It spreads evenly only on the hi plates. I did not buy this koi because she was expensive, but I should have. I regret that I did not pull the trigger!

Kirin
Kirin.

Kirin is a relatively new variety. Mr. Wada, owner of Wada Koi Farm, introduced this variety himself about five years ago. He initially wanted to breed Kujyaku that can grow big, so he crossed Nezu Ogon with Kujyaku. At first he thought it was a total failure, because most of fry were black. (Kujyaku fry is supposedly pink.) 

But when he harvested them in fall, surprisingly, a beautiful collection of koi came out. When I asked him the difference between Kujyaku and Kirin, he said that Kujyaku has a hi pattern on a Gin Matsuba body. Kirin has the pattern on Mukashi Ogon. 

I appreciate his efforts to develop new varieties. If you have a chance to get Kirin from Wada Koi Farm, I would highly recommend it. Of course, I bought some for my own stock. 

Ginrin Aragoke
Ginrin Aragoke

Aragoke means oddly large scales. In the old days, when koi were born with Aragoke, they were considered poor quality and got eliminated first. These larger scales tend to appear on Doitsu varieties. 

I was trained to pay attention to the scale sizes and not to buy koi that has Aragoke. It was common sense among breeders and dealers at the time. 

Mr. Ikarashi challenged this common sense, however. At Ikarashi Koi Farm, he bred koi that featured Aragoke (large scales) with ginrin. His Ginrin Aragoke is very popular. It comes with many different color variations. 

I bought a handful of very beautiful Ginrin Aragoke from him this year. With a golden body, each scale is evenly large and shines with ginrin. The symmetrical markings on the base of its pectoral fins elevates its beauty.

Kouyo
Kouyo

This is a relatively new, two-year-old variety called Kouyo. Mr. Kawakami crossed Doitsu Chagoi and Doitsu Ochibashigure. Because they are still in the first generation, there were many different types with yellow or brown. 

My father always said, “Support breeders if they are challenging new varieties. For the first several years, breeders cannot breed enough beautiful ones. They lose money. During their challenge, dealers should buy these koi and support their efforts.” 

We do not know how these koi will turn out, but I appreciate his challenge and decided to pick two from Kawakami Koi Farm. Please support your dealers who are supporting these adventurous breeders.

Kanoko Showa
Kanoko Showa

Kanoko means fawn in Japanese. A fawn has polka dots on its body, so in relation to koi, kanoko means a polka-dot pattern. The one I found at Isa Koi Farm is definitely one of the best Kanoko Showa I found on this year’s trip. 

Needless to say, the Kanoko pattern on her back is perfect. As a normal Showa, she is gorgeous: its body confirmation, sumiquality and the powerful presence with the sumi, hi and kanoko. She is definitely one of a kind. 

These are just some of the fantastic, unusual koi that I found on my 2021 trip to Japan. Whether breeders planned to breed them or not, it is such a surprise to find these rare and beautiful living jewels. 

I hope that Japan will open the border before next year’s harvest. If you have a chance to go to Niigata, Japan, I strongly recommend you do, especially if you are in the market for rare and beautiful Japanese koi. a

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