The production of Koi which fall into the varieties Kikokuryu, Kin Kikokuryu and Beni Kikokuryu seems to be increasing enormously with breeders in Japan, as well as breeders overseas as well. Indeed, some of the most impressive I’ve witnessed come out of Yoshikgoi in Poland bred by Jos Aben.

In this series of articles we’ll take a look at the origins of the varieties, what characterises each, and the quite varying styles that we see which now seem be broadly grouped as Beni Kikokuryu.  

In some respects that larger group of ‘Beni Kikokuryu’  somewhat parallels Goshiki, a variety which I think breeders are still striving to create the definitive style of.

Aoki’s Kikokuryu and Beni Kikokuryu

The group of varieties finds its origin with the creation of Kikokuryu, effectively metallic Kumonryu, first created by Haruo Aoki.   His farm is now known as A O Aokiya, situated in the town of Katakai, part of Ojiya City, Niigata, although many generally refer to him just as ‘Aoki’.

AO Aokiya Koi Houses in Katakaimachi

AO Aokiya Koi Houses in Katakaimachi

AO Aokiya Koi House

AO Aokiya Koi House

Haruo Aoki

Haruo Aoki

Born in the village of Iketani, Yamakoshi, Haruo Aoki grew up surrounded by Nishikigoi.  As a child he would buy young fry and raise them for selling.  His love of Koi, and desire to become a breeder, didn’t materialise straight away, he found work in a restaurant in Osaka before returning to Niigata in 1970 to set up a barbecue restaurant in the town of Katakai, a restaurant he still owns and runs today.


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Aoki’s love of Nishikigoi hadn’t diminished and in 1972 he also started breeding Koi as a hobby, focusing on varieties that others didn’t breed.

Seeing an expanding export market in the mid 80’s Aoki anticipated a demand for Doitsu and metallic varieties and focused attention on Kikusui.

Aoki created the first Kikokuryu in 1993 by cross breeding a male Kumonryu with a female Kikusui.  Kumonryu was another variety which Aoki bred regularly.

The creation of the first Kikokuryu has an air of mystery surrounding it.  In an interview in Rinko magazine Kiyoshi Kase of Koshiji Koi Farm recalls:

‘This is a story that I heard from him.  He had Kikusui and Kumonryu spawn in different ponds.  The next morning he found the Kumonryu couple finished spawning, but that the female was still being chased by the males.  He put the males into the pond of the Kikusui couple whose spawning process was still halfway, and as a result Kikokuryu was born.’

An offspring from that first spawning, accidental or otherwise, made its debut at the 1994 Niigata Nogyosai.  Entered in 45bu Kawarimono class, and named at the time on the entry form as ‘Hikari Kumonryu’ (literally shiny Kumonryu) the Koi was awarded the Governers Prize.


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At the 13th All Japan Young Koi Show in 1996 the Koi’s new owner entered the Koi, which had undergone an amazing transformation, and it was awarded the Best in Variety award.

Aoki Kikokuryu; left from Niigata Nogyosai, right from All Japan Young Koi Show (Pic courtesy of Rinko magazine)

Aoki Kikokuryu; left from Niigata Nogyosai, right from All Japan Young Koi Show (Pic courtesy of Rinko magazine)

Whilst the picture above is not the clearest, what is clear to see is the dramatic sumi transformation.

The metallic black and white Kumonryu was subsequently named ‘Kikokuryu’, the kanji for which is 輝黒竜,  a name which translates literally as shiny black dragon.

At the same time as creating Kikokuryu the spawning, whether by design or pure accident, created Beni Kikokuryu, the red pigmentation unsurprisingly appearing from the Kikusui.

Early Aoki Beni Kikokuryu exported to Europe (Picture scanned from Koishi)

Early Aoki Beni Kikokuryu exported to Europe (Picture scanned from Koishi)

This pair of images above was copied from Kodama’s Koishi book, the right hand image also appears in Rinko magazine’s 2002 interview with Aoki.  The right hand image apparently shows the Koi on export from Japan, the left hand picture at the point in time it won a ‘best in size’ prize at a Koi show in England.  In Kodama’s interview the pair of images is presented by Aoki as a demonstration of sumi changing, and beni staying consistent.  To be honest I’m not sure I look at the picture and stand aghast at the level of change, the image is of more interest for what was clearly a very refined little Beni Kikokuryu for such a long time ago, and such an early stage in the development of the variety.  With the increased interest in the variety, and all high quality examples of unusual Koi, I suspect the asking price for such an example would be somewhat higher in 2019 than at the turn of the century when this was presumably sold.

An interview with Aoki san in Rinko magazine in 2002 details the parents used by him in that year with a view to improving Beni Kikokuryu.  Among 4 parent sets he used there were a range of varieties including Kikokuryu, Kumonryu, Doitsu Kohaku, Hariwake, Kikusui, Yamatonishiki, and Doitsu Showa.


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Aoki's 2002 parent photos (Picture courtesy of Rinko magazine)

Aoki’s 2002 parent photos (Picture courtesy of Rinko magazine)

To this day AO Aokiya Beni Kikokuryu are characterised by a deep orange/red beni pattern coupled with deep black pattern inherited from Kumonryu.  The examples below have all appeared at Koi shows or auctions in Japan over the past few years.

The first is perhaps the most significant, despite its diminutive size of under 21cm.  At the 4th International Junior Koi Show staged in April 2016, having taken the Grand Champion B prize for non-Gosanke, this Beni Kumonryu was voted overall champion ahead of a 36cm Dainichi Kohaku.  Many felt that in terms of an example of type, the Beni Kikokuryu was a rather more significantly high example of type than the Kohaku.  It certainly put Beni Kikokuryu on the map!

Grand Champion B and Overall Grand Champion, Kawarigoi, 21bu, Owned by Shk Sultan Abdullah Al Qassime (UAE) Bred by AO Aokiya, Handled by Narita Koi Farm, Agent Koi Kichi Fish Farm

Grand Champion B and Overall Grand Champion,
4th International Junior Koi Show,
Kawarigoi,
21bu,
Owned by Shk Sultan Abdullah Al Qassime (UAE)
Bred by AO Aokiya,
Handled by Narita Koi Farm,
Agent Koi Kichi Fish Farm

Left to Right; Motoyoshi Aoki, Tanaichanok Limpanusorn, Haruo Aoki

Left to Right; Motoyoshi Aoki, Tanaichanok Limpanusorn, Haruo Aoki

45bu Governors Award, Benikikokuryu, Ao Aokiya

45bu Governors Award, 2016 Niigata Nogyosai, Benikikokuryu, AO Aokiya

Best in Size 30bu, 2015 Niigata Nogyosai, AO Aokiya, Benikikokuryu

Best in Size 30bu
AO Aokiya
Beni Kikokuryu

Auction Koi

Breeder - AO Aokiya, Variety - Beni Kikokuryu, Size - 51cm, Age - 3 years old, Sex - female

Breeder – AO Aokiya,
Variety – Beni Kikokuryu,
Size – 51cm,
Age – 3 years old,
Sex – female

A O Aokiya, Beni Kikokuryu, Yonsai, 50cm, Female

A O Aokiya,
Beni Kikokuryu,
Yonsai,
50cm,
Female

AO Aokiya, Beni Kikokuryu, Sansai, 41cm, Female

AO Aokiya,
Beni Kikokuryu,
Sansai,
41cm,
Female

AO Aokiya, Beni Kikokuryu, Sansai, 43cm, Female

AO Aokiya,
Beni Kikokuryu,
Sansai,
43cm,
Female

AO Aokiya, Beni Kikokuryu, 37cm

AO Aokiya, Beni Kikokuryu, 37cm

 

Igarashi’s Kin Kikokuryu

Seiki Ikarashi is the second generation of Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm, situated around 25km from the centre of Ojiya City, and slightly closer to the centre of Nagaoka.  Like AO Aokiya and Koshiji Koi Farms it is a little out of the way to many other Niigata breeders.

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm (pic courtesy Mark McKinney)

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm (pic courtesy Mark McKinney)

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm (pic courtesy Mark McKinney)

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm (pic courtesy Mark McKinney)

It’s said that Seiki Ikarashi began breeding Kikokuryu in 1996, shortly after the success of Aoki’s originals.  Ikarashi used a female Doitsu Kin Showa paired with male Kumonryu and Shusui.


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Ikarashi’s Koi became known as Kin Kikokuryu, because they exhibited a golden yellow coloured pattern, combined with the black that Aoki’s Kikokuryu exhibited, and compared to the deeper red that Aoki’s Beni Kikokuryu inherited from Kikusui.

In Kodama’s ‘Koishi’ book he interviews Seiki Ikarashi regarding his creation of Kin Kikokuryu and details that his parents can create 6 different distinct variations of offspring, 4 of which he describes as Kin Kikokuryu, one as Momiji (meaning maple, a reference to the varying shapes of autumn colours it exhibits), and simple Kikokuryu with just black and platinum colouration.

The images below from ‘Koishi’ show the 6 different types.

Type A - Kikokuryu

Type A – Kikokuryu

Type B - Kin Kikokuryu

Type B – Kin Kikokuryu

Type C - Kin Kikokuryu

Type C – Kin Kikokuryu

Type D - Momiji

Type D – Momiji

Type E - Kin Kikokuryu

Type E – Kin Kikokuryu

Type F - Kin Kikokuryu

Type F – Kin Kikokuryu

In the 2nd volume of Harald Bachmann’s book ‘Koi’ published in 2007 he writes of Igarashi’s Kin Kikokuryu, ‘But is was the really good Kikokuryu of Ikarashi Koi Farm that truly impressed me.  These Koi are not quite as harmonious as those of the Aoki Koi Farm but they are characterised by very good growth and an unusually good body form for Doitsugoi.’

The first 6 Koi were all photographed at Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm in October 2016.  In these we can see some of the different styles that Kodama described in his book.

Ozumi Ikarashi Kin Kikokuryu

Ozumi Ikarashi Kin Kikokuryu

The Koi above would full within type ‘C’ according to the Kodama groupings.  The nezu grey base covering the whole Koi with the ‘kin’ pattern layed over it.


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The next 2 Koi below would belong in the type ‘E’ group, described as having a ‘more refined’ pattern than type ‘C’.

Ozumi Ikarashi Kin Kikokuryu

Ozumi Ikarashi Kin Kikokuryu

Ozumi Ikarashi Kin Kikokuryu

Ozumi Ikarashi Kin Kikokuryu

The example below would again fall into the type ‘C’ group.

Ozumi Ikarashi Kin Kikokuryu

Ozumi Ikarashi Kin Kikokuryu

Whilst I’ve classified the 4 examples above as ‘Kin Kikokuryu’, the shade of the 2 below is unquestionably a deeper orange/red, enough to call the Beni Kikokuryu?

The first would have been in type ‘E’ with a more refined pattern, and certainly more refined than the 2 type ‘E’ examples above.

Ozumi Ikarashi Kin Kikokuryu

Ozumi Ikarashi Beni Kikokuryu

The final one here would have fallen into Kodama/Ikarashi’s type ‘F’, resembling Doitsu Kujaku, however it can be seen that the skin colour is grey and not white as required by Kujaku.  As Beni Kikokuryu became more prevalent often younger examples with under developed sumi backgrounds would be described as Doitsu Kujaku, something which is incredibly more unusual to see nowadays.

Ozumi Ikarashi Kin Kikokuryu

Ozumi Ikarashi Beni Kikokuryu

The 5 examples below have all appeared at recent Niigata Breeders Auctions, and have all been classified by the breeder at Beni Kikokuryu, and certainly the first 3 are somewhat more resemblant of the Aoki fish that were pictured above, the last 2 more of the ‘classic’ Ikarashi style.


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Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm, Beni Kikokuryu, Nisai, 35cm, Female

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm,
Beni Kikokuryu,
Nisai,
35cm,
Female

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm, Beni Kikokuryu, Nisai, 32cm, Male

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm,
Beni Kikokuryu,
Nisai,
32cm,
Male

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm, Beni Kikokuryu, Nisai, 25cm, Sex unknown

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm,
Beni Kikokuryu,
Nisai,
25cm,
Sex unknown

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm,
Beni Kikokuryu,
45cm,
Sansai,
Female

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm, Beni Kikokuryu, Female, Sansai, 52cm

Ozumi Ikarashi Koi Farm,
Beni Kikokuryu,
Female,
Sansai,
52cm

Beni Kikokuryu as an umbrella variety name 

In his interview with Haruo Aoki in ‘Koishi’ Kodama asked Aoki to explain the difference between his Beni Kikokuryu and Igarashi’s Kin Kikokuryu.  Aoki stated, ‘Kin Kikokuryu of Mr Igarashi has gold.  My Beni Kikokuryu has ‘cinnabar red’.  It’s a difference of gold and cinnabar red.’

As production of Kikokuryu variants has become more widespread, and different styles have emerged (as we’ll look at in part 2 of this article), it does seem that Beni Kikokuryu has become a broader all encompassing name for for these tri-coloured metallic Koi of Kumonryu origin.

 

References

Rinko Magazine – English PDF Version published by Shin Nippon Kyoiku Tosho Co.,Ltd –  http://www.snkkoi.com/onlinerinkopdf/index.html


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Koishi – Written by Mamoru Kodama – https://www.kodamakoisupply.com/koishi-by-mamoru-kodama/

Koi 2 – Written by Harald Bachmann – https://www.rheinmainkoi.de/

Some photos courtesy of JNPA Niigata District auction listings


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