In the first two parts of this article we’ve tracked the progression of Kujaku since their first creation in the early 1960s through to a Koi variety, which, in the 2010s bears little resemblance to that early Koi, but is a highly complex variety, the appreciation of which is multi faceted.

If you’ve not already read them then I suggest reading parts 1 and 2 first, you can find them at the links below.

Kujaku in Detail – Part 1 – The Beginnings

Kujaku in Detail – Part 2 – Building Blocks

In part 2 Mike Snaden of Yume Koi, Gary Smith of Gatwick Koi, and Joji Konishi and Makoto Konishi of Konishi Koi Farm, a world leader in Kujaku production, expressed their opinions regarding aspects that made Kujaku special.  In this part we are going to take a look at those individual aspects of appreciation and explain some of the terminology in more detail.

Hikari, Lustre, Shine, Metallic

Kujaku, like all metallic Koi such as Ogon, Kikusui, Hariwake, etc., must most importantly have a strong metallic shine or lustre, call it what you wish. Hikari literally translates to shine.  It’s the fundamental basis for all varieties which fall within the Hikarimuji (shiny plain, i.e. single metallic colour with no pattern), Hikarimoyo (shiny pattern, i.e. more than one metallic colour forming a pattern) and Hikariutsuri (shiny utsuri lineage) show classes.


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The presence and quality of the hikari becomes evident at a very early stage and is an important factor in the earliest of fry selections when the breeder will look for shine on the nose of the pectoral fins of the fry, at a time when patterns of both the beni and platinum are not evident, nor the quality of the Matsuba scalation.

Young Kujaku showing shine on head and pectoral fins

Young Kujaku showing shine on head and pectoral fins

As the Koi grows we are looking for a clean shiny head, pectoral fins and skin of the Kujaku.

Shiny skin on the back of this stunning Kujaku

Shiny skin on the back of this stunning Kujaku

Shiny head, shiny pectoral fins and shiny skin on this Sakura Prize winning Kujaku

Shiny head, shiny pectoral fins and shiny skin on this Sakura Prize winning Kujaku

Shiny head, shiny pectoral fins and shiny skin on this Sakura Prize winning Kujaku

Shiny head, shiny pectoral fins and shiny skin on this Sakura Prize winning Kujaku

Unfortunately it’s quite common for Kujaku (and all metallic Koi) to lose their shine, and clarity of skin, as they get larger and older hence it’s so important to keep the shiniest at a young age.

Over 85bu Kujaku, Best in Variety 2014 All Japan Koi Show. The head no longer has the lustre of the younger examples. Despite that a very imposing and impressive example of Kujaku.

Over 85bu Kujaku, Best in Variety 2014 All Japan Koi Show. The head no longer has the lustre of the younger examples. Despite that a very imposing and impressive example of Kujaku.

Matsubamon, Kuroi-mame, Fukurin, Amime, Reticulation

Without question this is the hardest part to be right on a Kujaku.  Whichever name you may use, or hear used, we are talking about the repeated black dotted pattern on the scales of the Koi.

Matsubamon translates to ‘pinecone pattern’, Kuroi-mame to ‘black beans’, Fukurin to ‘decorative border’ – referring to the skin surrounding the scale,  Amime to ‘mesh of a net’ – the pattern created by the fukurin and the scales.  Reticulation obviously an english word also meaning a mesh like pattern.

Close of up Kujaku pattern

Close of up Kujaku pattern

If we look at the image above we can start to see how the pattern details of the Kujaku’s Matsubamon are created, and indeed start to understand how and why it’s so complicated for it to look ‘perfect’.


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The Kuroi-mame is created by the tips of each scale being black in colour (the area circled in white above).  A carp’s scale is embedded into the skin of the fish, indeed more is hidden than visible, as it creates an armoured coating on the body.  In the outlined area above the platinum/white coloured skin creates a pocket into which the scale sits, and as the scales form over the body of the Koi the skin creates the fukurin.  On different varieties we may see this represented different ways depending on the colour of the scales or the colour of the skin.  On other parts of the image above we can see the red pigmentation which clovers the skin and/or scale in part or in entirety and see how that potentially has an effect on the appearance of the black scale.  Looking along the centre line of the picture we can see red seemingly enhancing the black pigmentation making it appear darker whilst, on adjacent scales, seemingly blocking out the black.  We can see this non uniformity even clearer on the image below.

Close of up Kujaku pattern

Close of up Kujaku pattern

On the face of it it may appear that that in close up these images don’t represent high class Kujaku.  In reality that couldn’t be further from the truth, both are close ups of arguably the finest Kujaku I’ve ever witnessed in person, here she is in her entirety.

Best in Sakura and 80bu Sakura Prize, Kujaku

Omosako Kujaku, Best in Sakura and 80bu Sakura Prize at 2019 AJKS

 

In part 2 of this article Mike Snaden stated, ‘Matsuba effect should be strong, clean, and deeply wrapping, with bright contrasting fukurin.’

If we look at the example above we can see that the Matsubamon appears to extend all over the Koi, we can see it stretching down the sides of the Koi.  In the close up picture further up we can see that the Matsubamon is non existent in the lower scales in the bottom of the photo.  This is normal.  However, on occasion we see Kujaku where the matsubamon only appears on the very back of the Koi, perhaps only on 2 or 3 rows of scales either side of the dorsal ridge.  These Koi really rather lack impact, irrespective of the rest of the package.

The final consideration in respect of Matsubamon is the colour which, as we can see from the examples, can range from grey to black.  The darker it is the greater impression it gives.


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The Kujaku below was entered into the recent Autumn 2019 Niigata Breeders Auction.  Whilst the Matsubamon is quite pale silvery grey, and subsequently appears a little weak on the red markings, its beauty lies in its sharp edges and beautiful fukurin.

Nagashima Koi Farm, Kujaku, 3-year-old, 64cm, Male

Nagashima Koi Farm,
Kujaku,
3-year-old,
64cm,
Male

Pattern

We see a huge variance in the pattern of Kujaku, some similar to Kohaku, but with a great deal more flexibility.

Whether patterns are light, as in the Omosako example above, or heavy as in the Fukuzawa example below, it’s really the Matsubamon that creates impression.

75bu Kujaku bred by Fukazawa Koi Farm

75bu Kujaku bred by Fukazawa Koi Farm

In the 2nd part of this article we quoted an earlier article where Joji Konishi stated, ‘This is my opinion but Kujaku with plain white head of partially white head looks more unique and valuable because the white head works to make the entire body look more lustrous than menkaburi with red markings on the head.  

It is the white background not the red hi ground that makes the fish body look brighter.  Furthermore Kujaku with white head are more competitive.’

We can get an impression of how this affects the appearance of a Kujaku by looking at the examples below and removing the white area on the head.


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Original Koi on the left, altered image on the right

Original Koi on the left, altered image on the right

Original Koi on the left, altered image on the right

Original Koi on the left, altered image on the right

Original Koi on the left, altered image on the right

Original Koi on the left, altered image on the right

Allowing for the comments made above, the rules of thumb which apply to any pattern on any variety continue to apply of course to Kujaku in that the pattern has to be balanced, and pleasing from front to back, and side to side.  The sashi and kiwa of the beni pattern of course need to have sharp edges and not be blurred.

Colour

As you’ll have seen through this article, the colour of Kujaku varies considerably, with a variety of factors contributing.  Naturally we want the background white/platinum colour to be as clean and bright as possible, not yellowy.  We mentioned the Matsubamon above, and the fact it can range from a silver grey through to dark black.  Then of course we have the ‘red’ pattern which, in truth, is very rarely red, indeed metallic red is invariably dark orange at best, due to the metallic pigmentation.

The overlaying colour on Kujaku can vary from a golden orange yellow through to a deep orange red.  Both hobbyists, and in turn breeders, seem to be forever searching for a deeper shade of red and the almost fabled ‘Beni Kujaku’.

In terms of appreciation, it’s really a case of ‘you pay your money and make your choice’, the preceding factors are much more relevant in assessing the quality of the individual Kujaku.

Other factors

In the second part of this article Gary Smith mentioned the desirability of clean head and also indeed clean pectoral fins.  These are 2 areas which really are the icing on the cake from transforming a superb Kujaku into something amazing, and it seems that there are plenty of superb Kujaku which fall short on either one or both aspects.

If you look at every Kujaku photographed above, with the exception of one, they have either black around the nostril/nose area, or black/orange markings in the fins.  All of these examples are major winners at Koi shows or otherwise extremely high class.  They all excel in the aforementioned areas in particular lustre and Matsubamon.


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To conclude this 3rd part of this in detail look at Kujaku, a gallery of some examples of Kujaku that we’ve encountered over the last decade or so……….

Fukazawa Koi Farm, 80bu (actual size 76cm) Governors Prize, 2008 Niigata Nogyosai

Fukazawa Koi Farm, 80bu (actual size 76cm) Governors Prize, 2008 Niigata Nogyosai

Starting from the head of this Koi it would be quite easy to be put off by the grey markings, however once past those we encounter a wonderful body covered in deeply wrapping Matsubamon which we can see remains strongly contrasting against the platinum skin even down the sides of the Koi.  A simple by sufficient beni pattern of deep colouration complete the package.

63bu Sakura Prize, 2009 All Japan Young Koi Show (breeder unknown)

63bu Sakura Prize, 2009 All Japan Young Koi Show (breeder unknown)

To have won Sakura Prize this was deemed to be the best non-Gosanke in the 63bu class in the entire show.  Again, starting from the head we see some grey markings, and considerable motoaka in the pectoral fins.  The highlight of this Koi however is surely the incredibly bright, shiny deep red colouration which is overlaid with deep black Matsubamon.

Omosako Koi Farm, Best in Variety Kujaku, 2009 All Japan Young Koi Show

Omosako Koi Farm, Best in Variety Kujaku, 58bu, 2009 All Japan Young Koi Show

This is a Koi which is perhaps most interesting for the fact it was bred by Omosako Koi Farm, a farm who we are now seeing so many great Kujaku originating from.  Koi has great lustre, lovely clean white head, and excellent clear Matsubamon patterning.  The beni pattern perhaps leaves a little to be desired.  All in all reflecting the level of importance given to these aspects earlier in the article.

Fukuzawa Koi Farm, 80bu Governors Prize, 2009 Niigata Nogyosai

Fukuzawa Koi Farm, 80bu Governors Prize, 2009 Niigata Nogyosai

This is a Kujaku that’s appeared throughout this series of articles.  This Koi made a big impression on me when I first encountered it at the 2009 Niigata Nogyosai.  The immaculately clean head, with no staining whatsoever, and the imposing white slash through it, strong imposing Matsubamon, bright white ground, deep bright red.  The pectoral fins prevented from being perfect by a few rather insignificant dots of red.  The Kujaku remains to date as one of the very best I’ve witnessed, truly memorable.

Fukazawa Koi Farm, 80bu, Best in Variety, 2013 All Japan Koi Show

Fukazawa Koi Farm, 80bu, Best in Variety, 2013 All Japan Koi Show.  This Koi also won Best in Variety in 2014

Another Fukazawa Koi Farm Kujaku, double winner at the All Japan Koi Show.  We featured the head of this Koi earlier in the article as typically lacking the shine and lustre on the head of younger examples. Notwithstanding that what we do have is a very imposing Koi with a big powerful shoulder area, featuring both red and white, wrapped in thick, strong, well defined matsubamon patterning.


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Marusei Koi Farm, 70bu Sakura Prize, 2013 All Japan Koi Show

Marusei Koi Farm, 70bu Sakura Prize, 2013 All Japan Koi Show

Marusei Koi Farm produce high quality examples of so many different varieties of Koi, but Kujaku is surely one of their specialities, and this is a incredibly beautiful example.  We mentioned the importance of white on the head earlier.  If this were a Kohaku the head pattern would be insufficient, buy it works perfectly well on Kujaku.  Beautifully strong and defined Matsubamon throughout the Koi.

Miyatora Koi Farm, 75bu Sakura Prize, 2017 All Japan Koi Show

Miyatora Koi Farm, 75bu Sakura Prize, 2017 All Japan Koi Show

A slightly dirty head didn’t stop this big bodied Kujaku winning.  The Matsubamon is perhaps not the most refined compared to some of the examples here when studied closely, it almost feels as though the scales are a little congested on the body.  The red is a very deep shade.

Kaneko Koi Farm, 63bu, Best in Variety 2017 All Japan Young Koi Show

Kaneko Koi Farm, 63bu, Best in Variety 2017 All Japan Young Koi Show

If the Miyatora had a particularly deep red, this is very much at the golden orange end of the spectrum of colour.  Also if the Matsubamon of the Miyatora fish wasn’t the most refined, this is very very beautiful.  The unique head pattern shows off the lovely spotless forehead, such a shame that those two dots appear on the nose.

Omosako Koi Farm, 75bu Sakura Prize, 2018 All Japan Koi Show

Omosako Koi Farm, 75bu Sakura Prize, 2018 All Japan Koi Show

This example shows how sometimes the matsubamon gets outcompeted by the red pigmentation.  The white skin on the body is very bright, and the fukurin incredibly thick and deep, especially on the shoulder area.  The scales are a silver grey, rather than black, which creates a really nice subtlety.  The minimal orange pattern emphasises the beauty of the white skin and matsubamon.

Omosako Koi Farm, 40bu Sakura Prize, 2018 All Japan Koi Show

Omosako Koi Farm, 40bu Sakura Prize, 2018 All Japan Koi Show

The head, pectoral fins and dorsal ridge are about as shiny as could possibly be on this smaller example.  As with the previous example, both from Omosako, the matsubamon barely shows on the red markings, although there is an obvious texture.  The fukurin is of course thinner and narrower than on the larger examples but the reticulation is still clear and clean.  Would love to see this at a larger size.

Omosako Koi Farm, 90bu Sakura Prize, 2019 All Japan Koi Show. Also Best in Variety at 2018 All Japan Koi Show

Omosako Koi Farm, 90bu Sakura Prize, 2019 All Japan Koi Show. Also Best in Variety at 2018 All Japan Koi Show

This is an incredibly imposing Koi.  The head and fins maybe don’t shine as much as the smaller and younger examples however, the body, both in terms of its shape and conformation, and the matsubamon which look like each scale has been individually carved are simply superb.  I spent a long time studying and photographing this Koi in the winners pool at the 2019 All Japan Koi Show, about 5 metres away was another example which was going to blow this one away….


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Konishi Koi Farm, 90bu, Best in Variety 2019 All Japan Koi Show

Konishi Koi Farm, 90bu, Best in Variety 2019 All Japan Koi Show

Slightly quirky rules at the All Japan Koi Show mean that, for the last couple of years, the best in variety isn’t necessarily the best example of type at the show.  This particular Best in Variety winner actually came behind the Kujaku above and below which took higher prizes, until  a few years ago the Kujaku below would have been awarded the best in variety prize as well as its best in Sakura.   Anyhow, a large, impressive, imposing example of Kujaku.  Excellent Matubamon across the body of the Koi.  The pattern benefits from the white nose and the large white shoulder patch.

Omosako Koi Farm, 80bu and Overall Sakura Prize, 2019 All Japan Koi Show

Omosako Koi Farm, 80bu and Overall Sakura Prize, 2019 All Japan Koi Show

Finally, a Kujaku which I firmly place as the single best example that I have ever seen personally.  Having stood for some time marvelling at the 90bu Sakura Prize winning example above I moved to the 85bu, then 80bu pools and was truly blown away. The beautiful white face, without staining, but with dramatic red head marking.  The pectoral fins are bright, shiny and clean.  The white area between the head and dorsal fin simply glows, the ridge of the back so clean and then flanked either side by a shiny grey metallic Matsubamon.  We showed a close up of that area earlier in the article.  The dorsal fin and tail are also without colour adding to the impression of perfection.  This Koi quite rightly drew many an admiring glance over the course of the weekend of the All Japan Koi Show, Omosako san receiving the congratulations of many.  A truly fitting Koi to end this 3rd part of the article on Kujaku.

In the 4th and final part we will take a look at some of the different variations of Kujaku we see, including Tancho, Doitsu and Ginrin, along with some of the ‘hybrids’ and unique Koi which have developed from breeders using Kujaku.


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