Have you ever heard of “Sanke Bim bou”? No, it is not bimbo. It is “Bim bou.” In Japanese, it means “the poor.” “Sanke Bimbou” means Sanke breeders are always poor. Why are they poor? It is because it is very difficult to breed nice Sanke and make money. Of course, they are not necessarily poor, but that is how breeders in Niigata, Japan described the challenges of Sanke breeding. You might understand how difficult it is to come across a nice Sanke even from your experience. Let’s discuss this variety that is often difficult to breed.
What’s in a Name?
“Sanke,” “Taisho Sanke” or “Taisho Sanshoku”?
These are all names of this variety. You may wonder why this variety seems to have several names. The most appropriate name is Taisho Sanshoku. Some call this Koi “Taisho Sanke” or just “Sanke.” It got shorter simply because the original name is a bit long. I, therefore, would assume Sanke is probably the name you hear the most.
Sanshoku means three colors, obvi- ously because this variety is a Koi with three colors: red, white and black. Sanke is a shorter version of the three colors. Now, what is “Taisho”? In Japan, we have two calendars. One is the Western calendar we use here, and the other is the Japanese calendar. In Japan, we have the emperor system. Each emperor has his own era, which is named after him on the calendar. For example, the era of the reign of the current emperor, Akihito, bears the name of Heisei. 2014 is Heisei 25. Taisho is the name of the era when emperor Taisho reigned in Japan from 1912 to 1926. From this, you can tell Taisho Sanke is a tri-colored Koi created in the era of Taisho.
Do you remember when I discussed that Kohaku was the foundation of Koi appreciation? Sanke is basically a Kohaku with a sumi (black) pattern. At first, it must be good as Kohaku. Then, we need to see if the sumi are located in the right positions to balance with the Kohaku base. When you look at Sanke, check the following:
In the previous chapter, I discussed the importance of quality and pattern. Just like that, we would like to see snow-white shiroji (white ground) and bright hi (red). We would like to see the beautiful hi design. It is as if we would appreciate an art of beautiful red expression with deep and bright red ink on pure white canvas.
Sumi is a term that originally came from calligraphy. Sumi means black ink in calligraphy. So the quality of the color needs to be as thick and deep as the sumi ink. Assuming the sumi is of excellent quality, position is critical. It is not too much exaggeration that the difficulty of sumi position created the term, “Sanke Bimbo.” Unlike hi or shiroji the area of sumi is very small — yet such a delicate position- ing is required to keep the balance with the other colors. On the other side of the coin, this means it is very easy to ruin the beauty if sumi is located in the wrong positions.
“Tsubo Zumi” is the term to express a sumi that exists at the perfect spot. We use this term only for this variety. Unless it is important, we do not usually create a special term.
Unlike Kohaku, sumiis not usually all up when they are babies. They come and go before the color is stabilized. So it is very important to determine or estimate what kind of quality sumi appears where.
I have heard some dealers in the U.S. tell their customers, “You do not need to know breeders to buy Koi. Good Koi are good Koi.” I disagree. I must say, “How can you buy Koi without knowing the breeders?!” Koi is a living jewel, not a piece of jewelry that does not change its form of beauty. Without knowing the bloodline,
it is very difficult to predict if the Koi has a promising future or not. I do my best to share the breeder information with my hobbyist customers and dealer customers. I also encourage my hobbyist customers to ALWAYS ask about the breeders whenever they buy Koi at any Koi store.
There are many famous Sanke breeders. But you may want to know at least the following: Marudo Koi Farm, Yamamatsu Koi Farm (aka Matsunosuke) and Oya Koi Farm. I recommend you read “Koishi: Koi Breeders-Creators of Living Jewels,” a book by Mamoru Kodama, to study these bloodlines. It is also good to know the bloodlines that built the foundation of modern Sanke development, such as Torazo line, Jimbei line, Matsunosuke line and Sadazo line.
Selling Sanke is not easy. It is simple, but not as simple as Kohaku. Besides, it is not easy to come by a Sanke of breath- taking beauty. To sell Sanke, I always try to explain the difficulty of Sanke breeding. “Sanke Bim bou” is always a good story. I add information about breeders’ characteristics. I try to teach how to appreciate Sanke. It is also important for you to know that sumi of Sanke will not settle until it matures, around three to five years of age. It could come and go, so please let them know. Best of all, as I recommended in the Kohaku article, try several breeders’ Sanke by yourself. No study is better than raising them yourself.