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A Brief History of Japanese Nishikigoi

The story of Japanese Koi is chronicled to have began in the early 8th century in Japan. The carp were first imported to Japan from China. Their homes then were the irrigation ponds for the rice fields. For many years the fish was only used as a source of food. It was not until the first colour mutations were observed, that the fishes fate would forever be changed from being seen as a source of food to something beautiful. Over hundreds of years all the varieties would be created and perfected into the Swimming Jewels we see today. 

The term “Nishikigoi” was first used in a Japanese village about 200 years ago. Nishiki traditionally translates to beautiful and elegant and now is known to mean swimming (or living) jewel. “Ggoi” or koi is a Japanese term used to describe the carp. However “koi” is also a homophone for another Japanese word which means “affection” or “love”. Koi have become a symbol with multiple meanings in Japan some of which are; friendship, love, success, perseverance and advancement in life. 


A brown coloured carp, through the colourful beauty that lie hidden within it, became known as one the most beautiful fish in the world. Koi show us how to live graciously in groups and glide through our waters with elegance and beauty.


Koi are becoming a universal symbol of peace. 

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Japanese Koi: About

Types of Koi

There are around 200 different types of Koi. All koi are also either, ‘wagoi’, a Japanese for referring to a scaled koi , or ‘doitsu’, which is Japanese for “Deutsche” meaning German. Doitsu is the term used due to the origins of the scaleless body type. In the early 20th century scaleless German carp were sent to Japan and it was through cross breading with these carp that the trait was passed on and has now been bred into all types of koi.

Gosanke - The Big Three


In Koi culture the term ‘Gosanke’ refers to the main three varieties: Kohaku, Taisho Sanshoku (Sanke), and Showa Sanshoku (Showa). The term originally translates to “the three families” or “the three houses”, but in modern times has come to mean “the strongest three” or “the most famous three.” A brief description of each is provided below. 

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Kohaku

The oldest and most classic Koi pattern. The base colour of the fish is white (shiro) along with a unique red (hi) patterning.

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Sanke (Taisho Sanshoku)

Sanke’s are a tricolour koi. Like a Kohaku they are a white (shiro) koi with red (hi) patterning. They differ in that a Sanke has black (sumi) spots.

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Showa

Showa’s, like Sanke’s, are also a tricolour koi. They differ in that Showa’s main colour is black (sumi) with red (hi) and white (shiro) patterning.

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Tancho

A Tancho can be a Kohaku, Sanke or Showa. Tancho’s have a red (hi) marking, ideally circular, on their head.

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Doitsu

Doitsu are an almost scaleless koi created by cross breeding German carp with Nishigikoi. Any of the koi variety can be doitsu. Mistakenly thought of as completely scaleless they actually have one or two rows of large scales on their back and/or lateral line.

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Kinginrin

Kinginrin, or simply ginrin, are the pearlescent or iridescent sparkling scales. Ginrin can occur on all varieties of koi.

Japanese Koi: Products

Available Swimming Jewels

WHAT’S IN STOCK 2024

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Japanese Nisai

DOITSU LEMON HARIWAKE

20cm
$370
SOLD

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Japanese Nisai

KARASHIGOI

25cm
$200
SOLD

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Japanese Nisai

GOSHIKI

20 cm
$290
SOLD

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Japanese Koi

YAMABUKI OGON

22 cm
$250
SOLD

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Japanese Nisai

KUJAKU

20cm
$370
SOLD

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Japanese Nisai

DOITSU LEMON HARIWAKE

18 cm
$290
SOLD

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Japanese Nisai

KIKOKURYU

18cm
$290
SOLD

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Japanese Nisai

GIN MATSUBA

20cm
$310
SOLD

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Japanese Nisai

GIN RIN KIKUSUI

18cm
$310
SOLD

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Japanese Yonsai

4TH YEAR SANKE

35cm
$1150

Japanese Koi: Products
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