Nishikigoi from Niigata

The Landscape of Yamakoshi MountainsNiigata is the only place where can supply highest quality Nishikigoi. There are three essentail conditions that the area fulfills to raise high-class Nishikigoi, 1) adequate atmospheric and environmental conditions to raise and keep good Oyagoi, 2) many many years experience and know-how (called Nishikigoi craftsmanship) needed for each variety and 3) regional networking system and partnership among breeders.

The actual “Nishikigoi” is a mutated form of the edible Koi that was raised in former Yamakoshi Village (current Nagaoka City), Niigata, 200 years ago (1804-1830). Yamakoshi is the mountain-ringed region, the residents raked the mountains and built “rice terraces” to grow rice and vegetables. The “rice terraces” were preserve ponds to irrigate the terraces. Koi were raised in these ponds for a source of protein for winter, until one day, these Koi suddenly mutated, and Koi with different colors and patterns were swimming among the black Koi. The farmers were amazed by this and made efforts to breed more beautiful and unique Koi.

Breeders Harvesing NishikigoiNow, there are approximately 800 Nishikigoi farms in Japan. Roughly 600 farms out of the 800 are in Niigata, many of them have over hundred years of experience. The breeders in Nagaoka City and Ojiya City have been taking leadership role and have been developing thousands of superior “Oyagoi=original parents” Japanese breeders in other regions (such as Hiroshima or Fukuoka) or many breeders outside Japan bought Oyagoi from Niigata and are working as breeders. The big question is “Can the breeders supply highest quality Nishikigoi continuously once they could have good Oyagoi?” The answer is NO because the other area would not be able to provide “the essential condtions”, as Niigata has, to breed splendid Nishikigoi.

In addition, Niigata is known as the area of highest snowfall. Sometimes, 3 feet of snow per night. People in Niigata know the importance of helping each other. Each breeder in Niigata is family owned micro business, but they always work together, help each other, share information and when necessary they work as one big community. They think that partnership and acting as one community are more important than competition. Before they started Nishikigoi breeding, most of them were farmers. Farming rice in the mountains cannot be done without helping each other. This is the traditional Japanese behavior as agricultural race, which can bring big advantages for all Nishikigoi hobbyists in the world.

The breeders’ creative efforts made Nishikigoi industry more interesting. The most of Nishikigoi varieties are produced by breeders in Niigata. There are over 80 different kinds of Nishikigoi (or over 250 varieties by detailed definition). This is the strength and uniqueness of Niigata, the origin of Nishikigoi. Each variety requires different care and different knowhow to grow beautifully. Each breeder specialized how to develop highest quality variety. Their passion to create new Nishikigoi varieties leads Nishikigoi to be as colorful as it right now.
For more details of Nishikigoi variety, please refer to the list below.

■A Brief Chronological History of Nishikigoi Variety
The areas in Niigata are highlighted in    

Variety Year Origin Breeder Reference
Kohaku 1890 Ojiya City Kunizo Hiroi unknown
Shusui 1906 Tokyo Fukagawa Kichigoro Akiyama Doitsu×Asagi
Taisho Sanke 1917 Yamakoshi Village Eizaburo Hoshino Kohaku×Bekko
Ki Utsuri 1920 Yamakoshi Village Yohei Sato Ki Bekko×Magoi
Ki Utsuri 1920 Yamakoshi Village Eizaburo Hoshino Ki Utsuri×Ki Utsuri (fixed variety)
Shiro Utsuri 1925 Yamakoshi Village Kazuo Minemura Ki Utsuri Sanshoku×♀Shiro Bekko(bred by Torakichi Kawakami)
Showa Sanshoku 1927 Yamakoshi Village Jukichi Hoshino Ki Utsuri×Matsukawabake
Showa Sanshoku 1927 Ojiya City Kishichirou Hoshino Showa×Shiro Utsuri(fixed variety)
Kigoi 1930 Yamakoshi Village Keichi Matsui He officially named Nishikigoi Hanagoi in the 11th year of Showa era.
Kin Kabuto 1942 Yamakoshi Village Isematsu Takano Kinbo×Fujigin
Ogon 1947 Yamakoshi Village Sawata Aoki Kin Kabuto×Kin Fuji
Orang Ogon 1956 Ojiya City Masamoto Kataoka Asagi×Ogon(became fixed variety in 1963)
Doitsu Ogon 1958 Yamakoshi Village Tomisaku Sakai Kuro Doitsu×Ogon
Kin Ki Utsuri 1958 Yamakoshi Village Fujizo Takahashi Ogon×Ki Utsuri
Hariwake Ogon 1960 Yamakoshi Village Tomisaku Sakai From Ogon  
Matsuba Ogon 1960 Ojiya City Eizaburo Mano unknown
Kujaku Ogon 1960 Ojiya City Toshio Hirasawa Matsuba Hariwake×Shusui
Plutinum Ogon 1963 Toyama Pre. Uozu City Tadao Yoshioka Akame* Kigoi×Nezu* Ogon
Koshi no Hisoku 1963 Toyama Pre. Uozu City Tadao Yoshioka Shusui×Yamabuki Ogon
Beni Kouki 1990 Ojiya City Tomiei Suzuki Doitsu Goshiki×Doitsu Kujaku
Kin Kiryu 1990 Yamakoshi Village Ichiji Watanabe Doitsu Kinryu×Doitsu Kin Showa=Kumonryu×Gin Matsuba
Kikokuryu 1992 Ojiya City Haruo Aoki Kumonryu×Kikusui
Beni Kikokuryu 1992 Ojiya City Haruo Aoki Kumonryu×Kikusui
Ginga 1998 Ojiya City Tetsutaro Kataoka Ginrin Hajiro×Goshiki×Motoguro Kujaku

*quoted from the data by All Japan Nishikigoi Promotion Association