In this 3rd and final part of our look at black and white Koi we’ll look at those of Karasugoi lineage.

When we looked at Utsuri – Black and White….Part 1 – Utsuri – we made the point that Shiro Utsuri are somewhat ‘complete’ and very much dominated by one breeder, particularly in the larger sizes.  The challenge for other breeders now is to try and catch up on size, and keep pushing the qualities boundary.  Pretty much every other ‘variety’ we looked at as coming from Shiro Utsuri is now a by-product of other variety spawning.

Bekko – Black and White – Part 2 (Bekko) – on the other hand  are, as we showed, very much the forgotten variety.

In neither respects can the same be said about Koi of Karasugoi lineage, some varieties of which have been established for many years, and others which continue to be the subject of trial and experimentation.

The Karasugoi is an all black Koi which was a mutation from the Asagi Magoi, sometimes they exhibit the orange underside inherited from Asagi and are known as Hara Aka (Red Bellied) Karasugoi.  Karasu is the Japanese word for crow, a bird which is plentiful across the countryside and cities of Japan.  The Karasugoi is jet black, as opposed to the dark brown black of the magoi for which it could be mistaken.

Karasugoi, 4 years old, 71cm, bred by Dainichi Koi Farm

Karasugoi, 4 years old, 71cm, bred by Dainichi Koi Farm

It is from the Karasugoi that the more familiar varieties such as Hajiro, Matsukawabake and Kumonryu are subsequently descended.


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

It’s interesting to note that looking at some historical Koi books the Karasugoi line varieties, whilst established, were perhaps not then appreciated highly.  In Masayuki Amano’s ‘Live Jewels – General Survey of Fancy Carp’, published in 1968, there isn’t a single colour photo of any Karasugoi lineage Koi – although they appear in the genealogy charts.

Looking at the ‘Interpet Guide to Koi’ by Barry James, my first Koi book, published in 1986, again there are no colour images of any Karasugoi lineage Koi, the only mention given in the text detailing what, until 1983, had been the 13 Shinkokai variety classes at the All Japan Koi Show.  In Kawarimono it lists Karasugoi, Hajiro, Matsukawabake and Kumonryu.

Dr Takeo Kuroki’s ‘Modern Nishikigoi’ which was published in 1987 includes a couple of paragraphs under the heading ‘Koi of the Karasu lineage’ and in its question and answer format the question, ‘Please explain about the Koi of Karasu lineage such as Kumonryu and Sumi-nagashi.  It does include the image below which is one long etched in my memory.  Two examples which would stand scrutiny today.

Yotsujiro (shiro) from Takeo Kuroki's Modern Nishikigoi

Yotsujiro (shiro) from Takeo Kuroki’s Modern Nishikigoi

Elsewhere in the book, the Unique Koi section gives perhaps a hint to the fact that people were starting to ‘play around’ with the variety.  There’s a Kumonryu which is named ‘Utsuri Shusui’ as it has a block of sumi as opposed to perhaps typical Kumonryu sumi, there’s an ‘Utsuri Sumi Nagashi’, so called because the pattern is not across the whole body, a ‘Crown Hajiro’ with a red marking on the head, a ‘Hajiro Shusui’ with Kumonryu pattern but red markings originating from Shusui, ‘Sejiro Matsukawabake’ singled out because there is no black on the back (sejiro meaning white back), ‘Hageshiro Ginrin’ which today would be a Kikokuryu, ‘Kuro-juji Hajiro’ a hajiro with a black cross marking on the head, ‘Hajiro Shusui’ a Kumonryu with ‘shusui’ scales on the dorsal ridge, ‘Hajiro Suminagashi’ with half the body being solid black and half sumi-nagashi and ‘Hikari Hajiro’ a metallic hajiro.

Karasu lineage Koi from Kuroki's 'Unique Koi' section of Modern Nishikigoi

Karasu lineage Koi from Kuroki’s ‘Unique Koi’ section of Modern Nishikigoi

Moving forward a few years, Herbert Axelrod’s ‘Koi Varieties’ book, which features images of prize winning Koi from the 1987 All Japan Koi Show, has numerous images of Karasugoi lineage Koi winning Kawarimono prizes, and some extremely highly advanced looking examples among them.  Below are 6 of the prize winners, Karasugoi lineage Koi also won sizes 5, 7, 9, 11 and 15.

Some Karasugoi line winners from the 1987 All Japan Koi Show

Some Karasugoi line winners from the 1987 All Japan Koi Show

I distinctly recall what was probably the first time that Kumonryu entered my psyche, and it’s quite possibly one of the Koi pictured above that did it, because it was around that time that a UK dealer named Greg Jackson who ran a company called Harrow Koi, and wrote a column in Practical Fishkeeping magazine, featured a ‘new’ variety called Kumonryu.  I recall it being such a cool looking Koi, with a pattern reminiscent of a Killer Whale.


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

At the 1989 All Japan Koi Show a Kumonryu was awarded the Adult Champion prize.  This famous Kumonryu went on to be immortalised as the Koi in the logo of the Nishikigoi Vereniging Nederland (Dutch Koi Society).

NVN Logo

NVN Logo

I guess this was the period of time when Kumonryu really took off and presumably started to simply dominate the Kawarimono show class, for in 1994 (the same year as Kujaku) Kumonryu became the 19th show variety class at the Shinkokai All Japan Koi Show.

Below we’ll look further at the evolution of Karasugoi through to some of the more modern day varieties that are undeniably in vogue today……

Hajiro

Originally the term Hajiro was used for a Karasugoi with white tips on its pectoral fins.  Hajiro is also the term used for the tufted duck, the translation being white feather or white wing, the latter being understandable in relation to the Koi usage. Over time the term Hajiro has become much more universally used for black Koi with white ‘accent’ patterns on the fins, head or body. The image below is a classic Hajiro.

Hajiro, 61cm, 3 years, bred by Izumiya, raised by Beppu Fish Farm

Hajiro, 61cm, 3 years, bred by Izumiya, raised by Beppu Fish Farm

Historically you will find much more specific names for black Koi exhibiting such white accents.  For example, Hageshiro would be a Karasugoi that had white on the head, Hageshiro literally translating to bald white.  Yotsushiro would be a Karasugoi with white tips to the pectoral fins, tail and a bald head, yotsu being Japanese for 4, i.e. the 4 white parts of the Koi.  To find such terms used by breeders nowadays is very unusual, and both of these invariably would be called Hajiro.


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

Suminagashi

Suminagashi is another term which we don’t really hear or see used anymore.  Invariably any Koi which would have been called ‘Suminagashi’ would now be labelled as Matsukawabake.  The term suminagashi is an old one, relating to a style of Japanese artwork where plain paper is marbled with ink.  Whereas the Hajiro above has solid black, the black of the Suminagashi would be more broken.

The Koi below was advertised by Narita Koi Farm when auctioned back in 2018 and we can see why it would be called Suminagashi given the marbled appearance of the black pattern, however, as said, many a similar Koi would be sold simply as Matsukawabake.

Breeder - Kawakami Koi Farm, Variety - Suminagashi, Size - 49cm, Age - 2 years old, Sex - female

Breeder – Kawakami Koi Farm,
Variety – Suminagashi,
Size – 49cm,
Age – 2 years old,
Sex – female

Matsukawabake

Matsukawabake literally translates to Pine(matsu) River(kawa) Ghost(Bake).  Matsukawabake were, historically, a black and white Koi with a variable pattern that would change with the seasons throughout its lifetime.  The black would often be presented on the centre of the scales, like Matsuba Koi. Nowadays many Koi will be called Matsukawabake without actually really knowing whether the pattern changes or not, it’s rather more the style in which the black and white presents itself, and that can take on many many appearances.  It may be that the Koi is of Hajiro appearance, but with a broken body pattern, it may appear similar to the Suminagashi above, but with more solid white and/or black pattern on the body.  The body may have reticulation to the scales, presented by white skin and black scale, or vice versa.  For this reason, Matsukawabake are both intriguing and fascinating, and a variety which it growing in popularity a the moment it would seem.  Conversely public interest sees breeders putting more and more into the variety with breeders including Dainichi and Omosako putting their individual spin into the variety, more of which later.

Let’s take a look at some examples of Matsukawabake and we’ll see the wide range of styles which the Koi can take.


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

The example below exhibits so many different aspects and characteristics seen in Matsukawabake it’s an interesting place to start.  This Koi has an incredibly interesting ancestry.  The parents are a female Showa crossed with a male magoi.  The parents of the magoi were a 115cm female magoi crossed with a male Kohaku.  The male Kohaku was a 72cm male Kohaku and a 113cm female Benigoi.  At the heart of Matsukawabake is a linear sumi pattern.  If we look at the solid sumi on the Koi below, starting from the head we can see the almost symmetrical sumi pattern either side of the head and then following back on either side of the body, much the same as we see the linear pattern on the face and undersides of an Asagi (or Shusui).  As detailed earlier, all of these varieties are descended from the Asagi Magoi through the Karasugoi.  We also see motoguro on the pectoral fins, where we might expect to see motoaka on Asagi and Shusui.  And then, on the back, the reticulated scale pattern giving suggestion to its Asagi heritage.  Given the what could arguably called ‘marbled’ appearance on the back of this Koi, and the lack of white, I think it could be argued that this is actually Suminagashi, but was been widely referred to as Matsukawabake at the time of being published in the magazines at the time of the ZNA Koi Show so we’ll stick with that…..

Matsukawabake, 85bu, Best in Variety 44th ZNA All Japan Koi Show (Photo courtesy of Rinko magazine)

Matsukawabake, 85bu, Best in Variety 44th ZNA All Japan Koi Show (Photo courtesy of Rinko magazine)

Below are 3 Koi which were entered into various Niigata Breeder Auctions by Kawakami Koi Farm, one of the masters of the variety.  All 3 of these Koi were listed in the auction as Hajiro by Kawakami and are examples of where Hajiro has become used as a catch all for Koi which fall within this broader Karasugoi lineage group.  What of course we don’t know about these Koi is whether the pattern changes significantly, sumi coming and going, which is a characteristic of Matsukawabake.  Looking at the Koi, I find it hard to believe that we are seeing stable patterns.

Kawakami Koi Farm, Hajiro, Sansai, 59cm, Female

Kawakami Koi Farm, Hajiro, Sansai, 59cm, Female

Kawakami Koi Farm, Hajiro, Nisai, 46cm, Male

Kawakami Koi Farm, Hajiro, Nisai, 46cm, Male

Kawakami Koi Farm, Hajiro, 19cm, Tosai

Kawakami Koi Farm, Hajiro, 19cm, Tosai

What we can see in all 3 of the Koi above are similar characteristics we discussed with the first example.  All 3 have a linear sumi pattern of the style we see on Asagi and Shusui (it should be considered that particularly in Asagi the selection process would see examples with such a wayward orange pattern as these do black would be rejected at an early stage).  On the 1st and 3rd the pectoral fins exhibit motoguro.  The significant difference is the presence of large areas of white ground on the back of the Koi.

The 2 Koi below were both bred by Kawakami Koi Farm, and both exhibited at the 2019 All Japan Koi Show.  It’s reasonable to presume that they share the same parentage, however, they present themselves very differently, although many characteristics are the same.  The first is of course undoubtedly simply Matsukawabake.

Kawakami Koi Farm, Matsukawabake, 58cm, 3 years old, female, 2019 All Japan Koi Show

Kawakami Koi Farm, Matsukawabake, 58cm, 3 years old, female, 2019 All Japan Koi Show

The Koi below is one that really muddies the water in relation to identification. If we consider ‘Hajiro’ to be a black Koi, here we don’t have completely black Koi, although we do have the requisite white tips to fins.  Does the lack of any broken pattern on the body prevent it being Matsukawabake?  Is it a Koi in transition from black to white, or vice versa?  Can we consider it Suminagashi?  Does it really need a name?  What I do know was that it was an incredibly striking Koi to see in the show pool at the All Japan Koi Show swimming alongside the example above.

Kawakami Koi Farm, Matsukawabake? Hajiro? Suminagashi?

Kawakami Koi Farm, Matsukawabake? Hajiro? Suminagashi?

Kawakami Koi Farm, Matsukawabake? Hajiro? Suminagashi? - Scales close up

Kawakami Koi Farm, Matsukawabake? Hajiro? Suminagashi? – Scales close up

As may be expected of a variety which is closely related to the Asagi Magoi, Matsukawabake and other Karasugoi varieties have potential to reach truly jumbo sizes.  The ‘Matsukawabake’ below was originally bred by Tanaka Koi Farm, a relatively small Niigata farm in the village of Takezawa, Yamakoshi.  The Koi passed into the hands of Izumiya and was entered in the 90bu class at the 2019 All Japan Koi Show and won best Kawarigoi.  It is used as a parent by Izumiya and now around 95cm in length.


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

Best in Variety Kawarigoi

Best in Variety Kawarigoi, 2019 All Japan Koi Show, 90bu size class, Bred by Tanaka Koi Farm

The Hajiro posted earlier, plus the 2 below, probably offspring of the Koi above.

Hajiro/Matuskawabake, 3 years old, Bred by Izumiya, Grown by Beppu Fish Farm

Hajiro/Matuskawabake, 3 years old, Bred by Izumiya, Grown by Beppu Fish Farm

Hajiro/Matuskawabake, 3 years old, Bred by Izumiya, Grown by Beppu Fish Farm

Hajiro/Matuskawabake, 3 years old, Bred by Izumiya, Grown by Beppu Fish Farm

Kumonryu

The name Kumonryu was first used by Shinji Hoshino of Higashiyama in the late 1940’s for a fully scaled Koi with a blurred sumi like a drawing of a rising dragon.  Kumonryu literally means ‘nine crested dragon’.

Later Kumonryu became used to describe the Doitsu scaled version of Matsukawabake, and encompass everything from that we’ve discussed above in terms of style of pattern etc.  In fact, an image in Dr Takeo Kuroki’s ‘Modern Nishikigoi’ is labelled ‘Matsukawabake (Doitsu).

Early Kumonryu were created by crossing Shusui and the scaled Koi of the Karasu line we’ve discussed already.  I recall it being very common to find small Koi with traces of a blue back, orange under markings, and a linear sumi pattern over the top.  It is still quite common to find occasional appearances of red pigmentation on both Kumonryu, and indeed Matsukawabake, harking back to their original ancestry.

As mentioned earlier, in 1994 the Kumonryu variety class was created by the Shinkokai at the All Japan Koi Show.  I also mentioned that Karasugoi varieties have the potential to grow truly jumbo.

Looking at All Japan Koi Show records from the early 2000s there were plenty of large sized Kumonryu, best in variety and special prize winners in the 75bu, 80bu and 85 bu size classes.


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

I remember the Koi below vividly, it was in the 85bu size class at the All Japan Koi Show in January 2008 where it won Best in Variety. It was every bit the ‘killer whale’ with a massive presence in the show pool, and as I recall threatened to jump and do tricks at any time.

Best in Variety Kumonryu, 2008 All Japan Koi Show (Picture courtesy Steve Gibbins)

Best in Variety Kumonryu, 2008 All Japan Koi Show (Picture courtesy Steve Gibbins)

Ten months later I would be reacquainted with the Koi at the Rinyukai Show staged in November of 2008.  The Koi was equally as impressive, equally has hard to photograph, but, as the photos show, even at this size the Koi still showed the fluidity of pattern which the variety is known for with some relatively small but obvious pattern changes.

Special Prize, 2008 All Japan Rinyukai Show

Special Prize, 2008 All Japan Rinyukai Show

Looking at old Rinko magazines it seems that these true Orca size Kumonryu were common place around the turn of the century although more recently we are used to seeing smaller, perhaps rather more patterned, examples taking the Best in Variety prize.

Kumonryu Shubetsu Prize

Kumonryu, Best in Variety 2017 All Japan Koi Show, 75bu

Kumonryu, Best in Variety, 2018 All Japan Koi Show, 65bu

Kumonryu, Best in Variety, 2018 All Japan Koi Show, 65bu

Best in Variety Kumonryu (Pic by Narita Koi Farm)

Kumonryu, Best in Variety 2019 All Japan Koi Show, 60bu (Pic by Narita Koi Farm)

Kumonryu

Kumonryu, Best in Variety 2020 All Japan Koi Show, 80bu

It’s an exciting prospect to think that the recent interest seemingly being shown in varieties of Karasu lineage that we’ll soon see high quality jumbo examples with exciting patterns, scale or doitsu.

There is still much to discuss regarding Koi of Karasugoi lineage, all of the above have metallic and gin gin variants, and now even when we have Ginrin Kikokuryu we have everything possible combined.

Keep your eyes peeled for the continuation of this article….


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month