Koi History by Ray Jordan

picture1No written history was kept of the early development of colored carp. Oral history of colored carp/koi is sketchy and often there are many different variations on how specific varieties of koi were developed. That said, here is the version that rings most true to my ear.


Origin/Distribution of Cyprinus carpio


It is believed that the common river carp originated in the Caspian & Black sea area. Carp were traded and carried father and farther from their original location because of their ability to survive in many different types of climates and waterways.





Common river carp have been raised for food for thousands of years.

Carp sometimes have natural mutations of colors including spots or bellies that are red, brown, grey, light blue/grey, light yellow, and tortoiseshell. Carp farmers all over the world would have seen these same mutations but only in the Niigata area of Japan were carp developed and refined successfully by selective breeding to eventually become what we know today as living jewels (koi).




Carp in Eastern Cultures

  • Carp is an Auspicious Animal believed to possess special attributes – Strength, Health, Persistence, Luck, Wealth, & Destiny
  • There is an important myth of a carp leaping up a waterfall and swimming tirelessly upstream to reach the headwater. When it succeeded, it was rewarded by transformation into a mighty dragon. In China, images or statues of carp are a traditional gift to a student beginning school.
  • In Japan, auspicious colors are red, white, black, blue, yellow, & brown.
  • The color Red (aka) is an expression of happy or bright feelings. Red evokes images of fortunate or happy occasions, symbolized by red and white as seen on kohaku.
  • “Nishikigoi begins and ends with Kohaku.”
  • Japanese prefer the majority of koi in a pond should be Kohaku to convey bright, happy feelings.

Carp sometimes have natural mutations of colors including spots or bellies that are red, brown, grey, light blue/grey, light yellow, and tortoiseshell. Carp farmers all over the world would have seen these same mutations but only in the Niigata area of Japan were carp developed and refined successfully by selective breeding to eventually become what we know today as living jewels (koi).

Why Were Koi Created Only in Niigata, Japan?

  • Very isolated in winter
  • 20+ feet of snow accumulation
  • Lack of fresh food in winter
  • Very Artistic/Creative/Competitive People
  • Profit – Colored Carp were valuable
  • Competitions (Annual Formal Koi Shows in Niigata area since 1912)
  • Artistic – Create something new, exciting, & unique.

It is believed carp first came to Japan by way of China about 400 – 600 years ago. Likely the remoteness of the mountainous Niigata area and especially in their harsh winters, with up to 20 ft of accumulated snow, inspired these home-bound villagers to find something beautiful to occupy their minds. Winters were so harsh that some carp had to be brought into temporary ponds inside their small homes to survive.


It is incredible to think that some bored rice/carp farmer, gazing at some of his pet magoi with a few red or gold spots, started thinking “I can breed Spot and Speckles and create a new type of colorful carp and then sell them for lots of Yen.”
Imagine what he would think if he could return today and see how popular, beautiful and expensive some of the descendants of his pet fish experiment had become.

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.

kohakuIn 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 modernkohaku.

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.

Carp in Niigata: Breeding for Color Continues

aka, beni, hi = different shades of red
sumi = black
shiro = white
ki – yellow
motoguro= black spots at the base of pectoral fins

In 1917 a Niigata koi farmer, Elizaburo Hoshino, bred a special male kohaku with a female Ai Goromo which had just a few spots of sumi netting. This produced the 1st Taisho sanke sanshoku (modern type).
About the same time, Ki bekkos were bred with magoi to produce the first Ki Utsuri.


Finally Hi and/or Ki Utsuri and Kohaku or White-ish Kawarigoi with red spots were bred by Jukichi Hoshino (Shiro-bei). He produced the first “original style” Showa that looked somewhat like Hi/Ki utsuri in the early 20th century. These early showas had goshiki-like (grayish) shiro and striped fins.












The next change was accomplished by breeding showa to asagi, which helped produce motoguro marked fins. In 1964 Tomiji Kobayashi crossed a Male Yogozen Kohaku with a female showa to produce a new style showa with a large dorsal crimson red pattern. It also had a brighter white ground without netting, deep wrapping sumi that formed motoguro, and a zigzag pattern on the head.

Jukichi Hoshino (Shiro-bei) produced the first “original style” Showa that looked somewhat like Hi/Ki utsuri in the early 20th century. These early showas had goshiki like (grayish) shiro and striped fins. Next change was accomplished by breeding to asagi which helped produce motoguro marked fins.

In 1964 Tomiji Kobayashi crossed a Male Yogozen Kohaku with a female showa to produce a new style showa with a large dorsal crimson red pattern. It also had a brighter white ground without netting, deep wrapping sumi that forms motoguro, and a zigzag pattern on head.




















There were three additional major steps in the development of the modern koi we see today.

1. Doitsu

First, German carp, which were scale-less and tan colored, were introduced into Japan in 1904. Some early crosses with Asagi produced Shusui, Chagoi, and Kumonryu. These fish, which have very few or no scales, are called “doitsu” – the Japanese pronunciation of “Deutch”.
Most types of koi bred today have had a doitsu version produced. Some popular varieties such as kujaku were actually first produced in the doitsu form and later crossed with scaled koi to develop into the form and pattern we know today.

2. Metallic

Second, in 1921, Sawata Aoki heard the story of a special carp with streaks of gold on its dorsal fin, which had been caught in the river near Hirose village about 30 kilometers away. Sawata felt compelled to walk to the area and see this carp. It was a black magoi with a shine at the base of its dorsal fin. He bought it for a high price and took it home.

After he allowed it to grow large he bred it, keeping only the very few babies that had any golden shine. Over the next 25 years he produced koi there were more and more metallic – Kin Kabuto, Gin Kabuto, Kinbo and Sakin.


In 1946 Sawata spent a small fortune, 60 yen, to buy a famous female koi of the shiro-fuji (White with shiny silvery head) type which he crossed with his own most improved metallic offspring. This was at the end of World War II and times were very hard. There was no money to buy food for the koi fry so he would catch insects all day and chew them into tiny bits to feed his fry. The people of his village believed he was crazy.

By the end of the summer there were two koi out of this group that had a shining gold sheen all over their bodies. They were also twice the size of their brothers and sisters. These were the original ogon koi (metallic golden scaled dark koi). Can there be any doubt that the special care and devotion shown by Sawata to his creations has produced generations of ogon koi that seem to be more easily tamed than any other type of koi?

Sadly, Sawata never benefited from his creation. He spent everything he had, and he and his family lived in rags, to produce a few first ogons. Later other breeders like Takehira Hoshide would acquire his ogon offspring and develop more refined brightly colored Yambukis (gold) and Platinums (silver). The first of these 2nd generation ogons sold for huge sums of money. Ogons are the basis for creating all the metallic types of koi we see today, including Kin Showa, Kujaku, Hariwake, Yamato Nishiki, and Kikiuryus.

3. Ginrin

Third, in Hiroshima (Southern Japan) about 1920 some magoi were discovered that had scales along their backs that sparkled like diamonds. These diamond type scales were first called “Dia Ginrin”.

Many attempts were made to breed these magoi to get baby koi with these types of scales all over the body. Then these Dia Ginrin koi were bred to popular types of koi.

About 1950 the first kinginrin kohaku appeared. Some of these first Dia Kohakus sold for $30,000 in the 1950’s. Dia Ginrin is more commonly called Hiroshima ginrin today.

Several other types of gin rin have been developed including Tama also called pearl gin, beta gin, and kado, also called “edge”, gin.
It is amazing to think that in a little over 100 years all the 100+ named varieties we know today were developed. Most since World War II when almost all koi were lost in Japan due to lack of food and orders from the military to forfeit all carp to be eaten. Fortunately the core koi brood stock was hidden in secluded Shinto temple ponds. After the war the survivors were recovered and breeding began again. But that is another story entirely.

Carp/Koi History Terms
Carp – Common River Carp (Cyprinus carpio)
Goi – Japanese for Carp
Magoi – Japanese for black carp grown for food
Variety First bred about Breeder Parent Koi Parent Koi
Asagi Early 1800's Spontaneous generation Lighter colored Asagi Magoi
Ki Bekko Mid 1800'sSpontaneous generation Magoi Hi-goi
Kohaku 1889 Kunizo Hiroi (Gosuke) White female(red head) White male (red-cherry blossom pattern)
Original Sanke 1890-1900 ?Kohaku Shiro Bekko
Shusui 1910 Kichigoro Akiyama Asagi sankeDoitsu mirror carp
Ki Utsuri 1921 Elzaburo HoshinoKi Bekko Magoi
Ki Utsuri (refined)1924 Mosaku Hiroi Ki Utsuri Ki Utsuri
Shiro Utsuri 1925 Kazui Minemura Magoi  
1926 or 1927 Jukichi Hoshino

(M) Ki or Hi Utsuri (F) Kohaku or red/white Kawarigoi
Dark Ogon 1946 Sawata Aoki Kinbo Kin Kabuto
Yamabuki Ogon 1957 Sawata Aoki Ki-goi Light colored Ogon
Doitsu Kujaku 1960 Toshio Hirasawa Hariwaki Shusui
Platinum Ogon 1963 Tadao Yoshioko Ki-goi Nezu Ogon
Midori-goi 1963 Tacho Yodhioka Male Yamabuki OgonFemale Shusui
Kobaysahi Showa 1964 Tomiji Kobayashi (M) Yagozen Kohaku(F) Showa
Yamato-Nishiki 1965 Seikichi Hoshino Sanke Ogon
Beni Kumanryu 1980 Megumi Yoshida Male Kumanryu Female Doitsu Kohaku
Kikikuryu 1993 Kataoka & Aoki Kumanryu Doitsu Kikusui
Beni Kikikuryu 1995 Kataoka & Aoki Beni Kumanryu Doitsu Kikusui



Koi Pattern Development






























Champions, Then…










…and Now







Copyright 2006 Ray Jordan


BY-LAWS of the Midwest Pond and Koi Society


(Feb 2012 Revision)



For the betterment and education of those interested in water gardens, and/or Koi, and/or ornamental fish; through the exchange of information, exhibitions, workshops, seminars, tours, and interaction with other similar groups.



Section 1. Any person, family, or corporation that has an interest in ponds and/or ornamental fish as expressed in Article I shall be eligible for membership and will become a member upon payment of annual dues.

Section 2. Membership dues are to be paid annually. Membership will run from January 1st to December 31st each year. The Executive Board shall set the amount of dues. Dues shall not increase more than 25% from the previous year’s dues.

Section 3. Default in payment to MPKS for any reason will be made good within 30 days or will result in suspension of membership. Members will pay the fee for a bounced check.



Members in good standing shall receive a membership card and copy of the by-laws. A member has the right to attend any club meeting or club activity. Members also have the right to attend the annual pond walk free of charge and receive the club newsletter. Members have the right and are encouraged to participate in the Society Committees.



Section 1. Meetings will be held on the third Friday of every month except for November and December. The Executive Board will establish meeting place and time. Meeting date may be changed by the Executive Board. Members would be notified of change by mail or email one week before meeting.

Section 2. The President will determine the agenda for the next meeting.

Section 3. The Board shall meet as needed to discuss the business of the club.



Minutes shall be taken at all meetings by the Secretary or someone appointed by the Secretary in his or her absence. Minutes will be kept by all Committees and will be the responsibility of the Chairperson in charge of said Committee. Copies of all minutes will be kept by the Secretary and are available upon request to any and all members.



All records of the Society are the sole property of the Society. Unauthorized use of said records is strictly prohibited. All current records will be kept by the Secretary. (Current meaning less than one year old) Older records shall be kept by the Society Historian. Records are defined as any document, picture, tape, or video that was produced by or for the Society or pertains to the Society.



Section 1. Executive Board – The Executive Board shall be made up of the following officers: President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, Executive Committee Chairperson, and nine Directors. These officers will serve a term of two years. The new Director position shall expire in October 2007.

Section 2. Vacancies – In the event of a vacancy on the Executive Board the Board shall by a majority vote appoint a member to fill the vacancy. This person will perform all duties of the office until the next scheduled election.

Section 3. Nominations – Any member in good standing may be nominated for any office. Nominations shall be submitted in writing to the Secretary on or before the September meeting. A list of nominees will be published and distributed to the general membership before the October meeting.

Section 4. Elections – Elections shall be held at the October meeting. The election shall be by secret ballot or by a show of hands. A lottery will be conducted by the Secretary and two other Officers to determine the order of names appearing on the ballot. The President shall count the ballots and announce the winners. In the case of a tie, there will be a “run off” election immediately. Officers shall be installed on January 1st. Absentee ballots may be obtained from the Secretary and must be returned no later than one week before the election meeting.

Section 5. Holding More Than One Office. An officer or director of the Midwest Pond and Koi Society (MPKS) may also serve as an officer or director of another pond and/or fish club, excluding only the office of President of the second organization while on the board of the MPKS. He or she must abstain from voting on issues that are deemed to be a conflict of interest with respect to the MPKS and the second organization.



Section 1. Duties of the President – The President shall perform all duties previously set forth here and preside at all meetings that he or she is present at. The President shall also act as chief liaison between this Society and any other club or organization.

Section 2. Duties of the Vice President – The Vice President shall assume all duties of the President in the absence of the President or at the request of the President.

Section 3. Duties of the Secretary – The Secretary shall be responsible for the minutes and maintenance of the membership list.   The Secretary shall be responsible for sending out meeting notices, membership cards, and other correspondence with members.

Section 4. Duties of the Treasurer – The Treasurer shall collect and record all monies due the Society. To prepare and present at every scheduled meeting a Treasurer’s report. To pay all predetermined accounts as may be authorized by a majority of the Board and to pay those bills presented and approved at meetings. To prepare and submit all reports required by any governmental agency.

Section 5. Duties of the Executive Committee Chairperson – This person shall oversee all Committees of the Society. This person will also appoint all Committee Chairpeople.

Section 6. Directors shall have a vote on the Executive Board.

Section 7. All Officers shall be responsible to make sure that the Society’s activities are in accordance with the purpose of this Society.



The by-laws may be amended at any Society Meeting by a vote in favor of the amendment changes in which two thirds (2/3rds) of those attending the Society Meeting agree to said changes. Said changes must be proposed at a preceding meeting. Said changes shall be mailed or emailed to all members at least 15 days prior to the Society Meeting at which the amendment will be considered. The mailing will be in the form of a notice within the next newsletter of the Society.



All property of the Society is irrevocably the property of the Society and is dedicated to use for the betterment of the club. In the event that the Society is dissolved, all monies and property shall be donated to a not for profit organization chosen by a majority of the remaining members of the Society and under no circumstance shall any property or monies revert to or go to any individual or current or past member of this Society. Nor shall any property or monies be used for the betterment of an individual member. The Society may sell or dispose of any club property by approval of the Board.



Section 1. Roberts Rules of Order will govern all meetings when necessary.

Section 2. A quorum is required to hold General and Executive, and Committee meetings. The quorum for a General meeting shall be 30% of members attending the meeting. A quorum for an Executive or Committee meeting shall be 30% of the Board or Committee members.



Section 1. Unauthorized sales, advertising, distribution, solicitation by members at club meetings or events is prohibited.

Section 2. Unauthorized use of Society property, funds, or membership lists is prohibited.

Section 3. All ideas that are developed for the Society become the sole property of the Society.

Section 4. Behavior that is in violation of the rules of this Society or the Statement of Purpose can lead to expulsion from this Society. For this to happen it has to be voted on by the membership and passed by a majority.

Section 5. The membership list shall be comprised of the names of all members, their addresses and phone numbers. If a member does not want their name, address or phone number to appear on the membership list, the member must notify the Secretary in writing. The membership list is the sole property of the Society and any unauthorized use or sale of said list is strictly prohibited. The Society has the right to sell or use it as it deems fit.



The following are the definitions and meanings as pertaining to this document:

  1. Society – Midwest Pond and Koi Society.
  2. Member in good standing – Any member who has paid current dues.
  3. Unauthorized – Anything that has not been approved by a majority of the Board in writing.
  4. Board – Refers to the Executive Board
  5. Family membership – All family members residing in the same household.
  6. Business or Corporate membership – A membership in a Business or Corporate name. Only the Owner or President will have the rights of a member.

Link to old article pages

Here is a link to our old article pages. A lot of gold here!


Old Articles