Mamuro Kodama Explaining Nishikigois

Mamuro Kodama, The Pond Digger and Taro Kodama at Nishikigoi Expo in Waikiki 2006

This Nishikigois Assessment page (“Nishikigoi” means: Beautiful or Colorful “Koi”) is comprised of notes taken by Eric Triplett, The Pond Digger, studying under Mamuro Kodama at the Grand Opening of the “Kodama Koi Farm” in Waikiki, Honolulu in the Fall of 2006. At the age of 63, Mamuro Kodama has over 40 years in the Koi business as a dealer and is one of the most well respected people in the Koi industry.

As part of this Nishikigois Assessment Seminar, given by “Mamuro Kodama”, the classroom was given a short introduction and then was ushered out doors to a grouping of temporary above ground, blue pools that each housed two different Kohaku Koi fish. The group was instructed to take personal notes on which fish they felt was more beautiful. Kodama said, “When two Nishikigoi are next to each other, one will always be more beautiful than the other, today I will help you to understand why.”


Kodama Speaking about Koi

The class participants sat on the edge of their seat while Kodamason (Kodama-Son means: Mr. Kodama) spoke in Japanese, making hand and eye gestures, pointing out both the redeeming qualities and the flaws of the “Kohaku Koi fish” variety in a Power Point presentation. The two Kohaku from each specific outdoor pool was projected on a screen and then critiqued by Kodama while the group compared their personal notes to Mamuro Kodama’s.

Mamuro Kodama’s son, Taro Kodama who is the protege of the living legend, Mamuro Kodama, served as the group’s translator in the Nishikigoi Assessment of the Kohaku variety. The group could certainly understand the international language that Mamuro Kodama used in the form hand, eye and head gestures, but more importantly there was a passion for “Nishikigoi” pouring from Kodama, that was so thick in the air, it was as if the group was learning from osmosis.


Nishikigoi – Beautiful Colorful Koi

Nishikigoi, the Jewels of Ponds and water gardens

Taro Kodama was an excellent translator and was very precise in covering the questions that came from the group of Koi lovers in the room. This Nishikigoi Assessment Seminar was a two hour class that only covered the Kohaku Koi fish variety and was over in the blink of an eye, leaving the audience begging for more. The only thing that kept the audience from chanting for an encore, was the fact that Mamuro Kodama mentioned that Nishikigoi Seminars on the Showa and Sanke varieties of Koi fish were being planned for the near future.

It can be said that the true understanding and identification of Nishikigoi, “Begins with Kohaku and ends with Kohaku”. That was verified by Mamuro Kodama during this Kohaku assessment class. Kodama said, “The Kohaku is the basis of understanding and identifying all the varieties of Koi fish and unless you understand all of the variations of the Kohaku you will struggle to understand other varieties and combinations”.

The word Kohaku literally means, white and red fish. More importantly what makes a sets an ordinary Kohaku aside from an exquisite Kohaku is; the white and the red of the Koi fish must have balance between the red and white colors, thus creating harmony.


Sandon Kohaku Koi

Yondon Kohaku

The Sandon (3-Step) Kohaku Koi (San meaning: Three & Don meaning: Step or Island) is a very significant variety, or brand if you will, of Koi fish. “The development of this variety of Koi fish took many, many years of hard work”, says Taro Kodama. The Sandon Kohaku started originally with a white fish with just a single plate of “Hi” (Hi, pronounced He, meaning: Red) on the head of the Koi Fish. Then slowly the second step or plate of Hi developed into the third plate and so on. So you can only imagine the work it took to develop the (Four Step) Yondan Kohaku as seen in this photo. This Yondan Kohaku was at the Kodama Koi Farm Expo and was seven years of age, was 32″ to 36″, and carried the hefty price tag of $25,000.00.

The Sandon Kohaku must have three plates of Hi starting at the head, preferably not touching the nose (Hanatsuki means: Reaching to the Noseî and is a negative term) with equal spacing of white and red in the body, the final hi plate ending before the red touches the tail. Now, preferably the spacing of white between the tip of the nose and the Hi of the first plate should match the distance of white between the beginning of the tail fin and the backside of the Hi on the final plate.

If the first Hi plate on the Sandon Koi is too large, either by reaching too far for the nose, extending onto the gill plate, wrapping over the eye of the Koi fish or extending back onto the shoulder into the body to far, it can be considered a negative mark for the Koi, destroying the balance and harmony. A round pattern that stays between the eyes is desirable. Symmetry may seem like the textbook perfect pattern however it is not always correct in saying symmetry is a must. A very unique or complicated pattern on the first Hi plate that wraps around, say over an eye or touching the gill plate of a Sandon Kohaku may still score very high with judges because of the uniqueness of the pattern. Sometimes what may normally be viewed as a negative mark can be overlooked for unusual.


Four Step Kohaku

Kiwa, or edges, of the red color touching the white color on the Kohaku is looked at closely. It is very important that the edges of color is sharp and distinctive between the two colors. Sashi is a negative term used primarily for the edges between the colors, more directly defined as, white scales overlapping red scales, creating a blurry edge.

The term Tobihi, meaning jumping red, was used to identify a couple of the fish during the assessment seminar. Tobihi is a negative term used to describe a small spot of red on the Koi that is somewhere undesirable. For example, one of the Sandon Kohaku’s second Hi plate was unique but had a small spot of red that was jumping out, approximately a half inch away from the plate. It was likely that the red colors would not ever connect and the Tobihi, would be a distraction, disrupting the harmony in the fish.

At this point in the seminar as if Mamuro was reading the minds of the participants, Kodama-San said, “When you are judging Koi for beauty it is perfectly okay to be very critical, there is no such thing as a perfect Koi.” He continued, “When you are purchasing Koi for your enjoyment, look for elegance or uniqueness and simply appreciate the design of the Koi, so as to not spoil your purchases.”


Nishikigoi (Koi) Fun Facts

Koi Expo in Waikiki 2006

Did you know that all of the beautiful Koi we know and love today were derived from the plain black carp that were used as a food source in Japan, approximately 200 years ago. As the black carp became commercially raised by farmers for food, color variations began to mutate out of the production. The Koi farmers found these color mutations interesting and began to breed these colorful fish, resulting in the more than 100 variations of ornamental Koi fish available today, including every color of the rainbow.

Before the age of three, the sexual difference between the male and female Koi can be difficult, however at the age of three years old, the Koi begin to show very distinct visual signs of sexual distinction. Generally the male Koi will be more elongated and sleek like a submarine while the confirmation of the female Koi will begin to show a more stout shoulder and mid section, usually out growing the male Koi fish pond mates

Female Koi tend to have more of a crisp ivory Shiro, meaning: white, on the nose especially in sexually mature Koi. Often times you will see large male Koi fish with a dull yellow or muddy white color in the head or nose while a female Koi fish of the same age, variety and size has a stunning white nose. It is a theory of the Kodama family that carotenes that Koi ingest from a diet of color enhancing food, may be used up by the females for producing eggs for reproduction, thus allowing for a more brilliant white on the nose, and body. While the male Koi use up carotene from their diet more evenly throughout their entire body creating a less brilliant white.


Nishikigoi Assesment

Koi signify strength, success, perseverance in adversity, and strength of purpose. Based on legends, Koi have become a symbol of courage with the ability to attain high goals, worldly aspiration and advancement. Legend has it, there is great waterfall called the Dragon Gate. Its waters plunge more than a hundred feet swifter than an arrow shot by a strong warrior. It is said that a great many Koi gather in the basin below the Dragon Gate, hoping to climb the falls. Any that succeeds will turn into a dragon.

Which brings us to the Kumonryu Koi. Kumonryu meaning, dragon of nine markings is often referred to as the Dragon Koi. The name Kumonryu is derived from a legend that tells of a dragon named, Ryu, transforming into a cloud and racing through the sky. Ryu very likely was a Koi at one point in time. The Kumonryu Koi is a Doitsu (German) Koi with a varying jet black pattern that emerges from the fish like billowing black clouds against a white background. The black pattern on the Kumonryu is variable and unstable, that may disappear with changes in the water temperature, sometimes reappearing with a completely different pattern and intensity.

The color patterns on a young Koi constantly change as the fish grows and matures. With a record age of 200 years recorded, average lifespan of this wonderful fish is 60 to 80 years, and the Koi fish can grow up to 40 inches in length. The beauty of a Koi’s pattern can only be truly appreciated by viewing the Koi from above, as opposed to viewing from the side.


Kodama & The Pond Digger

1945 was a significant year for Koi Breeders. It was the year that Yamabuki Ogon (Solid Yellow/Gold) and the Platinum Ogon (Metallic White) fish was developed and refined. This was a major advancement for Koi Breeders, enabling them to develop a wide variety of new color patterns and varieties of Koi fish that we all know and love today, covering all the color shades of the rainbow!

Mamuro Kodama says, “Instead of giving Platinum or Gold to a loved one in the form of jewelry, give them a Yamabuki Ogon or Platinum Ogon Nishikigoi!

Koi do not have a traditional stomach like you may think! Keep in mind that your Koi will fill up quickly and digestion will typically happen very rapidly, provided your water temperature is optimal. In a perfect world, Koi should be fed SMALLER PORTIONS every couple of hours five to six times a day! Today in most people’s busy schedules this is impossible, and feeding the Koi in the morning and the evening is perfectly acceptable practice.