In this second part of our look at black and white varieties of Koi we will take a look at Shiro Bekko and the different variants and style in which it occurs.

Shiro Bekko are simply white Koi with, generally, small black markings sitting on the back of the Koi, as opposed to the wrapped sumi markings we discussed in part 1 of this article on Shiro Utsuri.  If you’ve not read part 1 yet then you can find it here – http://nishikigoi.life/2020/09/12/black-and-white-part-1-utsuri/

Bekko are one of the oldest varieties of Koi, none of the old history books on Koi seem to make any reference to who created them, or where, it’s almost as though they simply existed.

Below is one of the genetic trees that illustrate Masayuki Amano’s ‘Live Jewels – General Survey of Fancy Carp’ showing how Sanke came from Kohaku and, unsurprisingly, Shiro Bekko at the same time.

 

Chart from Amano's 'General Survey of Fancy Carp' showing evolution of Shiro Bekko from Sanke production

Chart from Amano’s ‘General Survey of Fancy Carp’ showing evolution of Shiro Bekko from Sanke production

In the first part of the article we made reference to the record book kept by Chuzo and Torakichi Kawakami, great grandfather and grandfather respectively of Tsuyoshi Kawakami of Torazo Koi Farm.  The single illustration of black and white Koi in the book appeared very much the forerunner to Shiro Utsuri.  There were no other black and white Koi recorded in the book.


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There are however many Sanke drawings, as might be expected given the history of Sanke production at Torazo.  The 2 illustrations below very much give us the indication of Bekko appearing from Sanke, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine either Koi without the small amount of red on them.

Born 1922, female parent named Horai, male parent named Tencho

Born 1922, female parent named Horai, male parent named Tencho

Born 1923

Born 1923

When the All Japan Koi Show was first held in 1968 there were just 7 varieties, Shiro Bekko would have fallen within Kawarimono.  At the 3rd Show in 1971 Bekko (to include Ki and Aka Bekko) was created as a variety of its own, making 11 variety classes in total; Kohaku, Sanke, Showa, Utsurimono, Hikarimuji, Hikarimoyo, Asagi/Shusui,  Kawarimono, Bekko, Kinginrin, Hikariutsuri.

It’s fair to say that Shiro Bekko (and Ki and Aka Bekko too) have seen a fall from popularity in recent years.

According to data for the All Japan Koi Shows which took place between 2011 and 2018 there were a total of 11421 Koi entered into the show.  Across those 7 shows, and 17 size classes, there were only 143 Koi entered into the Bekko variety, an average of 1.2 Koi entered in every size class per year.

This however seemingly wasn’t always the case.

In Herbert Axelrod’s ‘Koi Varieties’ book it depicts a best in size winner for all sizes up to size 14 (nowadays equivalent of 80bu), the second largest size at the 1987 All Japan Koi Show.


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If we refer to the Nichirin magazines featuring the 2001 and 2002 ZNA All Japan Koi Show results we have many Bekko taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in size from over 85bu through to 15bu.

Nichirin Magazine with Bekko from 2001 and 2002 ZNA All Japan Koi Shows

Nichirin Magazine with Bekko from 2001 and 2002 ZNA All Japan Koi Shows

So why did Bekko fall from popularity?

As we’ve demonstrated, Bekko originated from Sanke and probably many of the Bekko we saw historically, and certainly as they do today, were the result of Sanke spawning.  Looking through the winning Bekko from the  1987 All Japan Koi Show they have one thing in common, defined blocks of sumi.  I cannot help but wonder whether the increasing prevalence of Matsunosuke Sanke with sumi which wasn’t so defined, and maybe looked OK on Sanke, didn’t have the same impact on Bekko?

Whatever reason it is, it’s unquestionable that Shiro Bekko are far from fashionable, or widely bred, in Japan or with hobbyists around the world.

The image below happened to appear on my Facebook memories today from September 2014.  The benching matrix of the 2014 South East England Koi Show.  At the time I’d made the remark that amongst 414 entries there amazingly wasn’t a single Bekko entered.

All England Koi Show Benching Matrix 2014

All England Koi Show Benching Matrix 2014

The surprising thing is, when you see the ones that win at the All Japan Koi Show for example, they can’t fail to impress.  Below we’ll look at some examples and the breeders where you can likely find them from in 2020.


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85bu and Best of Botan Prize

Winner 85bu and Best of Botan Prize, 2020 All Japan Koi Show, Bred by Sakai Fish Farm

Bekko

Best in Variety Bekko, 2020 All Japan Koi Show, 80bu, Bred by Konishi Koi Farm

Best in Variety Bekko

Best in Variety Bekko, 2017, 2018 and 2019 All Japan Koi Show, 85bu, Bred by Konishi Koi Farm

I included the Koi above in my post – 12 Favourites from the 2019 All Japan Koi Show – and wrote, ‘Bekko, an almost forgotten variety, but when they are like this they are mightily impressive.  In 2019 this example made it a hat trick of Best in Variety prizes, having won in 2017 and 2018 as well.  Well placed jet black sumi on a lovely creamy white skin, a well proportioned body, perfect pectoral fins, chubby cheeks, what’s not to like?’

Bekko

Best in Variety, 2017 All Japan Young Koi Show, Bred by Ooya Koi Farm

Ooya Koi Farm, Bekko, Sansai, 62cm, Female

Entry in March 2020 Niigata Breeder Auction, Sansai, 62cm, Bred by Ooya Koi Farm

Takigawa Koi Farm, Bekko, Nisai, 55cm, Female

Entry in the 4th Annual Western Japan Shinkokai Koi Auction, Nisai, 55cm, Bred by Takigawa Koi Farm

Izumiya Shiro Bekko

Izumiya Shiro Bekko

Izumiya Shiro Bekko sumi close up

Izumiya Shiro Bekko sumi close up

So quite why the demand for Shiro Bekko has become so small remains a slight mystery.  With regards to the breeders, it seems a small minority of Sanke breeders choose to keep a small number of Bekko which demonstrate particular characteristics such as size, body, and sumi quality from a small age.

Below we’ll look at some of the variants of Shiro Bekko which can be encountered.  All of these, like the Shiro Bekko we’ve discussed already, result from the breeding of other varieties, rather than being created

Ginrin Shiro Bekko

We saw in part one – Black and White….Part 1 – Utsuri – how adding Ginrin to the black and white of Shiro Utsuri could create an incredibly striking effect.  This is perhaps even more so with Ginrin Shiro Bekko, with large expanses of white ground covered in shining ginrin scales, with occasionally interspersed jet black sumi markings which may or may not exhibit ginrin as we saw with Shiro Utsuri as well.

Unfortunately, finding really nice ones is very hard.

The first example was photographed at Hiroi Koi Farm in autumn 2017 having been located by Ryuki Narita of Narita Koi Farm.


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Ginrin Bekko, Sansai, Bred by Hiroi Koi Farm

Ginrin Bekko, Sansai, Bred by Hiroi Koi Farm

The 2 below were photographed at Yagenji Koi Farm on the day they were harvested in October 2017, they were sold immediately after the pictures were taken.

High Quality Yagenji Nisai Ginrin Bekko

High Quality Yagenji Nisai Ginrin Bekko

High Quality Yagenji Nisai Ginrin Bekko

High Quality Yagenji Nisai Ginrin Bekko

High Quality Yagenji Nisai Ginrin Bekko Close Up

High Quality Yagenji Nisai Ginrin Bekko Close Up

Ginrin Bekko are are entered into Ginrin B at the All Japan Koi Show where they naturally face stiff competition, up against varieties such as Ginrin Goshiki, Ginrin Shiro Utsuri and other ginrin non-Gosanke.

Doitsu Bekko

If the beauty of Shiro Bekko lies with having clear, bold, defined sumi markings on a pure which background then the doitsu variant without scales to blur the edges of the sumi markings.

At the All Japan Koi Show Doitsu Bekko are entered alongside normal scaled Bekko.  Below a couple of examples which have appeared at the All Japan Koi Show in recent years.

65bu Botan Prize, Bekko

65bu Botan Prize, 2019 All Japan Koi Show, Bred by Matsue Nishikigoi Centre

Doitsu Bekko, 35bu Botan, 2013 All Japan Koi Show

35bu Botan, 2013 All Japan Koi Show, Bred by Hiranishi Koi Farm

Gin Bekko

Gin Bekko are the metallic version of Shiro Bekko.  It wasn’t until I started preparing this article that I realised that I’ve probably never photographed a really good example, if indeed any example.  The parents of Gin Bekko nowadays would likely be Yamatonishiki (metallic Sanke), a variety in itself that is far from common to find in any great numbers.


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Doitsu Gin Bekko

You can actually find many small Koi which kind of fit as Doitsu Gin Bekko, metallic white/platinum  Koi with a black ‘spotted’ pattern.  Sadly that’s all many are, they are offspring from many of the varied metallic Koi that are now produced, and find their way into the ‘metallic mixes’ shipped around the world in the 10-15cm sort of size.  Finding a genuinely high quality Doitsu Gin Bekko would be a challenge.

 

In part 3 of this article we’ll take a look at the black and white Koi of karasugoi origin, including older varieties such as Hajiro, Matuskawabake and Kumonryu, through to the newer metallic variants.  It is these variety which, in truth, have probably been responsible for the demise in popularity of the perhaps less exciting Shiro Bekko and its variants……


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