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Goin’ Japanesque!

Shimane Travel: Nishikigoi and the Undiscovered Scenic Town of Koi

Say koi (“carp”) and what people think is the nishikigoi (“brocade” carp) of Japan, a species known for having a great number of passionate fans around the world. Though at first they spread across Japan and the globe as ornamental fish, lately there are even people who treat them as pets, the same as dogs or cats, and keep them as a member of the house. Let’s talk about the history of nishikigoi and the variety of types that exist, numbering over 100 at present. Also, we hope you’ll take a look at the end of our article today, where we talk about a place known as the town of nishikigoi, a wonderful travel destination that’s still off the radar.


Creation and History

Called “living jewels,” it is said that nishikigoi originate from Nijumurago (now Araya) in Niigata Prefecture about 200 years ago. From the ranks of the common carp, a food fish at the time, the first nishikigoi appeared as a natural mutation producing a colorful fish.


Types of Pattern

1. Kohaku (“Crimson White”)


The most standard version, with red markings on a white background


2. Taisho Sanke (“Taisho Three Color”)


A fish like the Kohaku with a white foundation and a number of black markings, named for its emergence in the Taisho period (1912–1926)


3. Showa Sanke (“Showa Three Color”)


A fish like the Kohaku with a black foundation and long flowing black marks like ink strokes, named for its emergence in the Showa period (1926–1989)


4. Hikari Muji (“Shining Solid”)


A blemish-less and brightly shining fish that’s one solid color head to tail; the way the light shines on its head is sought after the most, with the shine off its pectoral fins and abdomen also important


5. Tancho (“Red Crown”)


Named for the tancho-zuru (“red-crowned crane”), its charm lies in the neatness of its appearance: a single red circle on the head contrasted with the clean and transparent whiteness of the rest of its form

There are a large variety of other nishikigoi all with their own unique characteristics, such as Goshiki (“Five Color”), Asagi (“Pale Yellow”), Bekko (“Tortoiseshell”), Utsurimono (“Reflective [ones]”), Kujaku (“Peacock”), and Kumonryu (“Nine Tattooed Dragons”). The larger a nishikigoi is, the more highly it is valued, and beautiful fish are said to be ones with thick middle sections and plump, well-delineated curves. Also, the definition of marking boundaries as well as the richness of coloration will also affect how highly a given koi is ranked.


The Town of Koi

We’re going to let you in on a little destination secret. Tsuwano in Shimane Prefecture, known as the Town of Koi, is a place with a rich atmosphere where many historical buildings remain together with a fair number of shops in business since the Edo era. We can’t recommend this town enough,

and what we’d particularly like to draw attention to is the small canals flowing along the white walls lining Tonomachi-dori. Suiting beautifully the streets of the town, many colorful nishikigoi swim here, reported to number over a thousand.

In Tsuwano, what you’ll see is nishikigoi of a different beauty from those that swim in the gardens of Japan. Everywhere you go here, you’ll be able to catch sight of these lovely koi. We hope you’ll have the chance to come see this hidden gem of a town. Information: Map

Related: Top 4 Japanese Koinobori Festivals Selected by Japanese

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