These days most of the Koi Industry, with regards to dealers who only bring in Koi from Japan, is pretty much based around Go-Sanke…Kohaku, Sanke and Showa. These make up 80% of my order book when I go to Japan, and don’t forget each variety has sub varieties which people want. Some want a 3 step Kohaku, some want a Sanke with Shoulder sumi, some want Kindai Showa and others want traditional Showa. There are hundreds of requests to get different types of Go-Sanke varieties.

The majority of breeders in Japan create their brands around these Koi. Bloodline is really only recognized in the Go-Sanke varieties, and Shiro Utsuri, with the likes of Omosako who has produced his own line in Shiro Utsuri which took a VERY long time to establish.

Shintaro Koi farm have been breeding Showa for many years, Masaru Saito says it takes over 10 years to establish a stable spawning of Showa. He is now very close to that final result. Showa are probably one of the hardest Koi to breed, historically 80% of Showa were bred deformed. Very difficult.

A Shintaro Koi Farm Showa - sansai left, yonsai right, supplied to a UK customer by Tim

A Shintaro Koi Farm Showa – sansai left, yonsai right, supplied to a UK customer by Tim

When people talk about Go-Sanke bloodline, they make it out to be something that, in my opinion, it is not.  The bloodline to many breeders is stability in breeding, not for individual Koi, but for more Koi from the culling’s, so at the end of the breeding season they get more good quality Koi. It’s still about numbers, whichever way you choose to look at it.

As a dealer this too passes down to us. With many visits to Japan we see Koi at Tosai…we see the same Koi at Nisai, and Sansai and even up to 10 years old in some cases, we have studied the development over the years and the traits of each breeder and we can have a better guess than most what our Tosai and Nisai will develop like for our customers, and when we initially buy those Koi in Japan. For example, traits such as, the pattern has split on many of that breeders Kohaku in the past so there is a better chance it could do the same on this Koi or the Sumi on a Sanke will come stronger from its underlying position into strong Sumi as it gets older.

I remember one time around 5 years ago when I was buying Showa from a very famous Showa breeder in Japan with a client.  These days you see LOTS of Showa with underlying Sumi, kind of Kage, both in young ages, and in older ages. Will it come through? I think when buying Showa this is the number one question people ask…will it come through to become solid black?  I bowled a Sansai and my client asked that question. The breeder looked at me as the agent, then looked to the client and said, ‘yes, of course!’ – at the end of the day he wants the sale. The Koi was not bought at that time but he said to me afterwards, ‘I don’t know what will happen with the Sumi, it’s almost impossible to tell!’.  I saw the same Koi last Autumn and the Sumi did come up. Other Koi that I knew from the same breeder for previous years, Sumi had not come up.  Showa are pretty much impossible to try and guess what they will do.

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People put a massive importance on bloodline when, in reality, it is not as important to the end user as some people try and make out.  Don’t get me wrong, I prefer to buy my Go-Sanke from breeders with a stable bloodline. It’s more a case of ‘hedging my bets’ thing. I want to make sure that a certain Koi (which could be a lot of money) does not go into my client’s pond and after 6 months goes bad, starts losing Beni, or Sumi not appearing where I thought it might. I need to sell a Koi that stays strong, that keeps on developing in my client’s pond so that client turns around and says, ‘I want another one from him’.

That’s exactly what the breeders are doing. That’s how we make relationships in Japan, by return business. They want me in turn to go, ‘I want another from you’.

Some of the major breeders have an idea which parent each fry come from, some make a massive deal about this, even produce catalogues of their parent Koi. This is amazing PR. It’s second only to ‘certificates’!

Breeder certificates

Breeder certificates

Most breeders breed their Koi and then they get mixed when they are big enough and the numbers have been culled, so they have NO idea which parent they have come from, it’s impossible unless, like a few, they have hundreds of growing ponds. So, when you ask the breeder to show you the parent he can sometimes guess because the traits look very similar, or he just says ‘Wakaranai’, meaning ‘I don’t know [and it’s not even remotely important]’.

For a client seeing a picture of the parent is brilliant for them, they see this fantastic Koi and think their Koi will turn out like this, or perhaps ‘Its sister won Grand Champion at the All Japan!!!’.  It must be remembered that perhaps around 300,000 of its brothers and sisters were rejected in the culling process.

All Japan Grand Champions, not always great parents....

All Japan Grand Champions, not always great parents….

Bloodlines themselves are pretty big brands on their own. We buy (and sell) many Koi on the basis of what bloodline they are.  I am guilty of it but I feel for a different reason.

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It is no secret I really like Matsunosuke Koi. I have good experience with these Koi and feel for Sanke there is none better. This is heavily proven with the fact that 70-80% of all Sanke bred in Japan are from Matsunosuke bloodline somewhere down the line.

I know the guy and even to this day he is always trying to make it better.

Now, I am not a Koi Keeper, it is something that does not interest me. I do not, and would never have a pond at my home. I am probably one of the very few people in this industry who has only done this for a job, my job is to sell Koi, that’s it.

So, it’s different for me compared to many other dealers who go to pick and buy what they think is a good Koi.

My  job is to make sure I pick the best Koi for my clients, the Koi that I hope will bring people back for more. So, I pick strong Koi, that I know the background of, that does not just mean the bloodline. I use the exact same method each time.

How much is it? If the price is right I will buy it.

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If the breeder comes around and says ‘it’s this bloodline’ or  ‘its sister did this’…it makes NO difference to me at all. The Koi is worth the price I can sell it for, certificates and any other flannel makes no difference.  This should, in my opinion pass down to the client who buys the Koi.  If the Koi is what you are looking for, if we know the breeder and have had success with him before, and the price is right…we buy it.

Some people will buy Koi in the strength of the bloodline and the story that comes with it when in reality it makes no difference at all to the quality of the Koi.

If you can tell me a Tosai will develop better because its X bloodline and has a certificate compared to a lesser known breeders Tosai without a certificate, then good luck to you. That’s what you like when buying Koi, that’s great. It is your choice.  However, in my opinion, makes no difference.

With regards to Nisai and larger then I can see an argument for the bloodline to come into it. Many people buy Nisai on size, it has to be over 55cm or whatever size you think a quality Nisai should be at that age. Yes, we can then look at the parent’s size, we can see pictures of that parent in some cases and see what size they were at certain ages…this is only a comparison, a guide that could help us to foresee the development in that Koi, the chances of it turning out anything like its parent is slim.

I actually use parent size more to sell non Go-Sanke.

If I am buying Chagoi at Nisai for example, I ask Marudo or Hirasawa, whichever breeder it may be, what size the parent Koi are, they invariably they are HUGE! I can use that as a good guide to actually pick my Chagoi with a better chance of getting to that jumbo size, which is what everyone wants in a Chagoi.

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I cannot really do the same when it comes to Go-Sanke. Have you even seen some of the breeder’s parent Koi in Japan? Much of the time you wouldn’t even have them in your pond. They are awful! Some Sanke and Kohaku parent Koi are just plain white Koi, no colour at all anymore. Some have missing scales all over where they have been battered from spawning in the previous years.  There is absolutely no comparison we can make to those Koi when we buy new Koi from that breeder.

No matter what you are buying when it comes to Koi, there are NO certainty’s and even a certificate won’t help you!

You need to know the breeder, you need to have experience with that breeder, you need to know his Koi like they do. You need to understand the traits of that breeder which can only be done from visiting years and years previously.

Bloodline, for me is just a guide…

Parent Koi, maybe apart from the size has no indication at all about how an individual Koi will turn out, NONE!

A good example of this and it’s not Go-Sanke related.

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There is a breeder in Niigata called Maruhiro who is the youngest son of the Hirasawa empire (and it is an empire).

Maruhiro Koi Farm's 'round pond'

Maruhiro Koi Farm’s ’round pond’

In his facility he sells many Koi, in all varieties, for good value, to dealers. You will see a lot of his Koi advertised on websites all over the world, he must breed millions of Koi each year. It’s amazing to see the amount of Koi he sells. Now, in the same facility he has a the famous ‘round’ pond where you can see his jumbo Koi. In this pond he has individual pieces which will take your breath away. If you want the best Benigoi in Japan…the best Aka Matsuba…Ki-Matsuba…Ochiba…Gin Rin Varieties…Shusui…Asagi… and many more non Go-Sanke varieties then this is where you might find them. They are MAGNIFICENT Koi, amazing quality and they are all PERFECT examples of these varieties. He may sometimes have 2 of the same quality and perfection but that’s very rare. I would imagine there are 100 pieces in that pond, and they include clients Koi which he has grown over the years. So maybe 50 of these examples for sale.  They don’t have certificates, they have a price tag though, a price tag that could probably buy you some top quality Go-Sanke. Out of all the Koi he breeds for sale, he has just 50 in that round pond for sale. No ‘named’ bloodline, just perfection.

I always say to people who come into the shop when they ask my advice; ‘you like the Koi, you buy the Koi, you take the Koi home and put it in your pond.’  It’s different perhaps when they are asking for a Koi to show, because then they have to buy a Koi which meets certain ‘rules’.

I wonder how many people prefer the Koi because of the bloodline or because it has a certificate…?

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