Koi History ~ Myths & Mysteries

Ray Jordan ©2006

Carp in Niigata: Breeding for Color Begins

Key Dates in Koi History
1889 - Kunizo Hiroi (Gosuke) bred 1st modern kohaku
1904 - 1st German carp imported and bred to asagi
1908 - Post Russo/Japan War boom – colored carp prices soar - sales banned - 1st koi shows
1914 - Patterned Carp Exhibition in Tokyo
1917 - Elizaburo Hoshino, bred 1st Taisho sanke
1927 - Jukichi Hoshino (Shiro-bei) bred 1st Showa sanke
WW II - Most koi lost - confiscated for food
1946 - Sawata Aoki created first Yamabuki Ogon
1950 - Hiroshima area produced 1st gin rin Kohaku
1960 - First plastic bags & use of oxygen
1964 - Tomiji Kobayashi developed new style showa
1968 - ZNA formed - 1st ZNA - All Japan Show
1980 - AKCA formed

Dark and light Asagis

Some of the earliest accidental occurring types of colored carp seen were Magoi (large black wild carp) with red bellies. From these early colored carp came three types of "different magoi." Finally three separate branches of koi genealogy emerged.

It is believed that Magoi & Hi-goi and crosses produced "black based" koi. First came Hi (red) and Ki (yellow) bekkos with black tortoise shell markings.

From darker Asagis came Goshiki, then later Koromo, Aka and Ki Matsubas, Karasu (all black), Hageshiro (black with white fins), and Matsukawa-bake (black with changeable white pattern).

From lighter blue based asagis came the white based koi. Taki-asagi (White sided) were the type of asagi used to eventually produce the first Kohaku. About 1830, Taki-asagi pairings produced a few white carp with red spots. These were the first colored carp to be called Kohaku (Red & White) and were the early ancestors of the modern Kohaku which is still the most popular koi kept today.

In the late 1800's there were a few unique red & white fish produced from breeding Taki Asagis. . In 1889 Kunizo Hiroi (Gosuke) bred a female carp that was white with a red head to a male carp with a red cherry blossom pattern to produce the first modern kohaku.

Kohakus were bred with Goshiki - Asagi and/or Hi Bekkos to produce the first "old style" Sankes and also shiro bekkos. In the post Russo/Japan war boom years the koi market exploded and prices soared to the point that the sale of koi was banned for awhile. But like our own Prohibition, the koi black market thrived. After a few years the sale of koi was permitted - and taxed - again.

Imagine after the fall harvest groups of rustic Niigata carp/koi farmers celebrating in Ojita City with pockets bulging with yen made by selling their "colored" carp.

Must have been quite a celebration.

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