If there is any variety which lives up to the name ‘Living Jewel’ then surely Kujaku can stake as great a claim as any. The complex combination of two metallic colours with a covering of matsuba scaling which when viewed in close up detail matches that of any gemstone.

Up close detail of the skin and scales or 2 high class Kujaku

Up close detail of the skin and scales or 2 high class Kujaku

Kujaku literally translates as ‘Peacock’, although i’m not sure that modern day Kujaku bear an immediate resemblance to the exotic bird after which they are named.

According to Dr Takeo Kuroki’s ‘Modern Nishikigoi’, published in 1987, ‘The first Kujaku Ogon were bred by Toshio Hirasawa of Minaminigoro, Ojiya, in 1960.  He had been trying to produce Hikarimoyo of Asagi and Shusui.  At last he succeeded in breeding a “Kujaku Ogon” by running a metallic backed female Shusui with a male Matsuba Ogon and a Hariwake.  Many Koi of this type were Doitsu at first.  Toshio Hirasawa used the word “Kujaku” because the fish had bright black markings like a peacock.’

Kuroki continues, ‘The Kujaku Ogon are characterised by an elegant two metallic coloured (platinum and hi) pattern over with the attractive Matsuba pattern is laid, making them gorgeous and unique.  In short, Kujaku Ogon are the Hikarimoyo of fully scaled Mameshibori Goshiki.  The best ones have bright head hi.’

The picture below is the ‘Kujaku Ogon’ which accompanied the text of Kuroki’s book.  The example is fairly representative of the Kujaku of today, however the red pectoral fins and tail, evidence of the Asagi heritage in the variety, would not be considered desirable in a truly high class example today where white fins are preferred.

Kujaku Ogon from Kuroki's 'Modern Nishikigoi'

Kujaku Ogon from Kuroki’s ‘Modern Nishikigoi’

Part of Takeo Kuroki’s ‘Modern Nishikigoi’ is dedicated to ‘Unique Koi’ and interestingly a ‘Kujaku Ogon’ appears in that section.  The accompanying text seems to suggest that this is an older Koi, and certainly an older more original style of Kujaku.  The text reads, somewhat similarly to the earlier quote, ‘The Kujaku Ogon is a Hikari-moyomono of Goshiki, and was first produced by Mr Toshio Hirasawa.  My first visit to Mr Hirasawa’s ponds was in May 1962.  There were many excellent Kujaku Ogon, which had begun to become well known, as well as many other Hikari-moyomono in his ponds.


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That time I had to walk over a mountain in boots to his ponds, but last autumn I drove there on a well paved road.  Mr Hirasawa had built a new house which he named “Kujaku Mansion”.  The Kujaku Ogon are loved by people who like elegant Koi.  This type of Koi has beautiful scales with silver trimmings.’

'Kujaku Ogon' from the 'Unique Koi' section of Kuroki's Modern Nishikigoi

‘Kujaku Ogon’ from the ‘Unique Koi’ section of Kuroki’s Modern Nishikigoi

According to the second edition of ‘Nishikigoi – Fancy Carp’ written by Takehiko Tamaki, and published in 1977, ‘It can be said that Kujaku Ogon is the metallic version of Goshiki (Mix Colours). The distinctive features are that the strong red tinge in the head, the silver color abundant in the body, makes it look like a peacock with a multitude of dazzling colours.  Good ones are rare.’  The accompanying image of a couple of small examples is not very helpful, however the text could certainly be describing the Koi above.

Masayuki Amano’s “‘Live Jewels’ – General Survey of Fancy Carp’, published in 1968 provides us with a better idea of what the early Kujaku would have appeared like.

Kujaku Ogon from Amano's 'Live Jewels'

Kujaku Ogon from Amano’s ‘Live Jewels’

The text in the book states, “‘Kujyaku Ogon’ – a new variety from ‘Hariwake Ogon’ with a dash of red.  It gives the impression of a radiant thing of ‘Goshiki’ (a variety of Asagi).  Especially, a carp of this variety having a head of deep red and a body scattered all over with silvery spots, reminds us of a peacock.”

Another historic reference book I have is ‘Koi of the World – Japanese Colored Carp’ by Dr Herbert R Axelrod, published in 1973.  The book acknowledges many of its images to two earlier Japanese books published in 1970 and 1971 which were written in part by the aforementioned Dr Takeo Kuroki.

Kujaku references in Axelrod’s book are few and far between, and the two images below which are used to represent the variety at best show us how far the variety has developed in the almost half a century to today, and indeed how much it developed in the 17 or so years and the publishing of Dr Kuroki’s ‘Modern Nishikigoi’.  In fact, Axelrod’s book, and its images in general, are a fine demonstration of how far and quickly Nishikigoi developed through the 1970’s and 1980’s.


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Kujaku Ogon in 'Koi of the World - Japanese Colored Carp'

Kujaku Ogon in ‘Koi of the World – Japanese Colored Carp’

Benikujaku in 'Koi of the World - Japanese Colored Carp'

Benikujaku in ‘Koi of the World – Japanese Colored Carp’

The second of these 2 images is perhaps the more interesting, the caption in the book states, ‘Benikujaku (red peacock) is a variety of the Kujaku Ogon (peacock ogon) whose red patches cover not only the head but also the entire body.’  In reality I don’t think it unreasonable to conclude that this Koi is essentially a Goshiki with some lustre, but it’s far from being a modern day Kujaku, as are all the examples presented – so how did such dramatic change take place in such a short time?

It’s probably useful to consider what other varieties existed in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and more importantly what they looked like.  The images below all come from the Axelrod book so date from that time.

Gin Matsuba

Gin Matsuba

Kin Matsuba

Kin Matsuba

Asagi

Asagi

This picture of predominantly Kohaku is from Amano’s ‘Live Jewels’.

A pond of predominantly Kohaku

A pond of predominantly Kohaku

In terms of a time stamp, the 1st Shinkokai All Japan Koi Show was staged in 1968.

Exactly what happened to develop the variety in the ensuing 20 years from 1970 to 1990 isn’t particularly clear or documented, however what is very clear is that a significant amount of work was done to leap forward this variety, so much so it’s hard to believe the old and the new are very closely related at all, except in name and overall concept.  To identify modern Kujaku as ‘metallic Goshiki’, as the original documenters did, even seems in doubt and very difficult to prove.  Indeed modern day Goshiki have taken a path of their own.  Whilst Kuroki may have written in Modern Nishikigoi, ‘Kujaku Ogon are the Hikarimoyo of fully scaled Mameshibori Goshiki’, the Mameshibori Goshiki itself is a rare thing nowadays, suffice for the hallowed Hiroi bred example of a decade ago which hails as perhaps the finest ever.  You may also be interested to read – The path to the perfect Goshiki.

Whilst it lacks any visual records to demonstrate development, the text of Mamoru Kodama’s ‘Koishi’ gives us an idea of who were major players in the development of Kujaku in Niigata at least.  Unsurprisingly 2 of the farms mentioned would be considered among the best places to search for Kujaku today.


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One of the farms is Oofuchi (also known as Fukazawa Koi Farm – Fukazawa is the area it’s located).  Kodama is asking Mr Hideaki Oofuchi about the early days of the farm, a time period which would seem to be around the mid 1970’s.  Mr Oofuchi, the second generation of Fukazawa Koi Farm, explains that Miyatora, who was a top dealer in Niigata at the time, would buy all of the best Koi produced by Oofuchi.  Of the Koi that Miyatora had for sale Oofuchi states, ‘Pretty much all the Kujaku were ours.’  Later in the interview Kodama states, ‘Your Kujaku came number 1 in Japan did they not?’  Oofuchi replies, ‘Yes.  I became famous because of that , and the dealers from all over Japan started coming over.  If I hadn’t found the parent Koi that produced that Kujaku it wouldn’t exist today.’

Fukazawa Koi Farm

Fukazawa Koi Farm

Fukazawa Koi Farm

Fukazawa Koi Farm

Harald Bachmann’s ‘Koi – Volume 2’ gives us a little more insight into the Oofuchi Kujaku.  It states, ‘Oofuchi’s renowned Kujaku strain traces its origins to a Goshiki female that exhibited a metallic sheen at the base of the dorsal fin and a Kujaku male.  

He mated Goshiki with Kujaku because he had only one Goshiki male.

The Kujaku male originated from Kosugi.  Kosugi had for many years previously been breeding Kujaku with red markings but the red Kujaku from Kosugi produced only small numbers of red offspring, while the majority of the young fishes exhibited the original orange pattern.

Oofuchi’s fishes were appreciably better in passing on the desired characteristic, and constantly produced a very high percentage of red patterned offspring.

At the end of the 1980s Oofuchi had very great success with his Kujaku – he can point to 6 Kujaku in the yearbooks of the Shinkokai for 1988 and 1989 that bred by him and took first place i their overall class.


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In 1996 one of his Kujaku won the Best in Variety Kokugyo Prize.’

The Kujaku below is one of my all time favourite Kujaku, winner of the Governers Award for best non Gosanke in sizes 55bu-over 85bu at the 2010 Niigata Nogyosai.

75bu Kujaku bred by Fukazawa Koi Farm

75bu Kujaku bred by Fukazawa Koi Farm

Returning to Kodama’s ‘Koishi’ there is another interview with Komei Kaneko of Kaneko Koi Farm.  In it Kaneko san states, ‘I started to produce Kujaku around 1980.  At that time Kosugi Koi Farm in Uragara was producing excellent Kujaku.  I bought their two year old male and female Koi.  They were my original parent Koi for Kujaku.’

He continues, ‘It took me 30 years to improve this Kujaku from Kosugi and create the current Kaneko Kujaku.’

He explains that through that 30 years he also introduced Kujaku that he purchased from a hobbyist and Kujaku acquired from Fukazawa Koi Farm.

Kaneko tosai Kujaku

Kaneko tosai Kujaku

The selection of photographs below come from Herbert Axelrod’s 1988 book ‘Koi Varieties’.  The book features a collection of images of Koi which were winners at the 1987 All Japan Koi Show, and Kujaku seem to feature quite highly among the winners.


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The first picture in particular is of a Koi which mesmerised me when the book was first published and I obtained a copy.  Unfortunately I’ve been unable to establish who the breeder of the particular Koi is, if you know then please be sure to let me know.  Among the other examples are certainly some which are, shall we say, a little less refined still.

 

1987 All Japan KoI Show - Best Hikarimoyo - Size 14 (now 80bu)

1987 All Japan KoI Show – Best Hikarimoyo – Size 14 (now 80bu)

1987 All Japan Koi Show - Prize winning Hikarimoyo

1987 All Japan Koi Show – Prize winning Hikarimoyo

1987 All Japan Koi Show - Prize winning Hikarimoyo

1987 All Japan Koi Show – Prize winning Hikarimoyo

1987 All Japan Koi Show - Prize winning Hikarimoyo

1987 All Japan Koi Show – Prize winning Hikarimoyo

1987 All Japan Koi Show - Prize winning Hikarimoyo

1987 All Japan Koi Show – Prize winning Hikarimoyo

1987 All Japan Koi Show - Prize winning Hikarimoyo

1987 All Japan Koi Show – Prize winning Hikarimoyo

Pictures of winners from the 1988 All Japan Koi Show featured heavily in the 1990 published book, ‘The Cult of the Koi’.  Several Kujaku reappear among the winners including the one below which was seemingly ‘flipped’ in the earlier book.

1988 All Japan Koi Show - Prize winning Hikarimoyo

1988 All Japan Koi Show – Prize winning Hikarimoyo

The progress breeders made with Kujaku clearly continued as in 1994 Kujaku was moved from the Hikarimoyo show class at the All Japan Koi Show and given its own show class.

That progression has continued until today, and indeed continues.  In the 2nd part of this article we’ll look at what makes modern day Kujaku such an interesting and technically demanding variety for both the breeders and hobbyists to get right.  We’ll consider points of appreciation for modern day Kujaku.  We’ll also take a look at the influence Kujaku is having on the production of some modern day ‘hybrids’ of the variety.

 


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References

“Live Jewels” – General Survey of Fancy Carp, Masayuki Amano (Published 1968)

Koi of the World – Japanese Colored Carp, Dr Herbert R Axelrod (Published 1973)

Nishikigoi – Fancy Koi, Takehiko Tamaki (Published 1977)

Modern Nishikigoi, Takeo Kuroki (Published 1987)

Koi Varieties – Japanese Colored Carp – Nishikigoi, Dr Herbert R Axelrod (Published 1988)

Cult of the Koi, Michugo Tamadachi (Published 1990)


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Koi 2 – Kawari Varieties, Harald Bachmann

Koishi – Koi Breeders-Creators of Living Jewels, Mamoru Kodama (Published 2010)


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