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Thread: Japanese snobbery or an enlightened point of view?

  1. #1
    Daihonmei
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    Japanese snobbery or an enlightened point of view?

    Japanese snobbery or an enlightened point of view?

    When I was coming up the learning curve, I would often listen carefully to the debate around me amongst senior koi keepers. It was helpful and at the same time, acted as a barometer as to how my knowledge base was progressing. I often heard rather racist remarks behind closed doors about ‘Japs’ and how they think they know everything! As one old timer was famous for saying “ these favored koi looks may play well in Old Tokyo but WE are Americans and we have our own likes and taste and we need an American perspective for what makes a koi a show winner! And so the America eye was born!


    Beyond the racist over tones, this point of view seemed somewhat reasonable to me as you can’t make people like something they are not instantly attracted to. We ARE Americans after all and we are conditioned to consumer rights (the customer is ALWAYS right), independence of thought and, of course, instant gratification.

    This gave us the era in shows where ginrins, hikari doitsu, chagoi and any kawarimono were considered more suited to the American eye. Doitsu showa, Ginrin Chagoi and Asagi were considered the best in many shows and in some cases, ruled over gosanke.

    Then came the ‘era’ of bigness’ in America. As our tastes ‘changed’ we begin to like any fish that was large. And if it was a large Ginrin kawari or a giant yamabuke we fell in love! A plump Doitsu showa absolutely ruled our most popular photo contests.

    Oddly enough, we Americans now seem to like fish closer to the Japanese view point? Which means one of two things—either the Japanese have come around to the thinking of world war II vets love of Elvis Velvet paintings –OR- we are maturing in terms of our koi appreciation!J
    To this I say—good for us. I hope we smile at ourselves and be grateful for how far we have come.
    I’d like to explore the core of understanding behind this epiphany behind this eye opening for just a moment---
    Great koi are a thing of rarity. We all understand well now how a good show koi individual is the result of a numbers game. That is, to take 150,000 fry and cull them down to just a few hundred representative individuals.
    But representative of what??
    Of rarity.

    What is rarity in koi?
    It is genetic rarity in a living creature.

    So how do we define rarity?
    By the type or number of mutations found in an individual’s phenotype.

    Of all the varieties, kohaku and sanke carry the most rarity. Not that it is hard to find these fish or that they are rare in numbers- they are not rare in that regard.
    They are rare however, in that they carry and SHOW so many rare mutations all in one body! Long like the special fish that grace our ponds! JR

  2. #2
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    My favorite was that the Japanese keep the best Koi for themselves and the Japanese books praise Kohaku and Sanke (over other varieties) because they cost more.


  3. #3
    MCA
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    In my dotage I have come to more and more agree with something Nigel Caddock said long ago..."Koi begins and ends with kohaku." Such simplicity and such complexity. So hard to to get very right. Very little margin of error.

  4. #4
    Daihonmei
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    Yep, not my bud Nigel however--- old ZNA member saying. I'm sure Nigel would want me to set the record straight. JR

  5. #5
    MCA
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    I stand corrected.

  6. #6
    Nisai
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    Appreciation

    It is easy to enjoy the appreciation to Kohaku and Sanke the most because they are the most complex and the most refined. They were bred the most, because that is where the market was and is. With more breeding they became more refined and because of all the work on breeding became the most complex. Since they were the most refined they where the most bought and so the circle is complete. As you get older it is harder to enjoy other varieties as they are not as challenging to the mind and not as rare.
    I have 8 Kohakus now, one sanke and two Showa. Hard finding that Sanke sometimes as the Kohaku part has to be perfect and then it is hard to get that just as finished Sumi and in the right place. The right place is a little subjective. Showas are nice in the pond, as they have the same colors and are in contrast because of different proportions of color.
    It does not seem that long ago when we just wanted one of everything but they can get funny looking as they get older. GoSanke seem to hold interest longer in their life.
    Some people like classic art and some like modern art. I like classic as it seems more complex and to me seemed harder to produce, but everybody likes different things and does not make them wrong. It is just harder the longer your are around koi to wrap our minds around other less refined varieties. I know very well who said the quote you have in the first post and he still feels the same way. Some things never change.

  7. #7
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasPR View Post
    Oddly enough, we Americans now seem to like fish closer to the Japanese view point?
    Seems to me that this has been true for the past 15-20 years when it comes to the show ring and judging, but the non-gosanke still prevail in the broader realm of koikeepers who do not show. There is an organized koi hobby that is focused on shows, judging, etc.; and an individual hobby that is pretty much purely personal. The organized hobby is driven by shows, which are dependent on judges being perceived as 'legitimate', which in turn leads to the necessity of judges being trained and certified. In the U.S., that has been the AKCA judging program, which has drawn mainly on ZNA principles of koi appreciation, albeit with a bit of difference 'at the edges'.

    The fact that one needs to be trained to recognize beauty says a great deal, and also explains why there is a market for doitsu kujaku and orenji ogons. We all know that the most beautiful koi of all is the Yamabuki, until one learns otherwise.

  8. #8
    Daihonmei
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    Lots to explore there Mike. Value or bang for the buck is one practical aspect to education. Another would be the idea that we should never loose perspective and suggest that the lower end of the koi appreciation scale is disconnected from the organized end of the hobby. It may be that the owner of ginrin, metallic guessagoi is oblivious of the koi culture but the product they keep is a result ( albeit a cast off) of the greater effort-- and that effort is clearly focused on the koi contest and koi appreication at the highest level. Agreed? JR

  9. #9
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasPR View Post
    Lots to explore there Mike. Value or bang for the buck is one practical aspect to education. Another would be the idea that we should never loose perspective and suggest that the lower end of the koi appreciation scale is disconnected from the organized end of the hobby. It may be that the owner of ginrin, metallic guessagoi is oblivious of the koi culture but the product they keep is a result ( albeit a cast off) of the greater effort-- and that effort is clearly focused on the koi contest and koi appreication at the highest level. Agreed? JR
    Agreed.

    Indeed, if 'snobbery' was all that mattered, shows would not have all the non-gosanke classes. There would be purposefully bred Shiro Bekko, which would undoubtedly be a better, more refined nishikigoi than any Shiro Utsuri. But, that is not reality. Shows are not disconnected. In many respects shows reflect that koikeepers see beauty even in Chagoi. (And, for those who are not familiar with my preferences, I was not demeaning Yamabuki. A fine Yamabuki is a rare creature of great beauty.

  10. #10
    Tosai
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    With respect, I think the term 'snobbery' is misplaced when associated with the Japanese. I'm no expert by a long chalk, but I believe the Japanese and their koi have evolved after travelling a very long road. They are undoubtedly the true masters of breeding koi, yet others are gaining.

    Myself, well I started with Gosanke, added other pretty koi, let some pretty koi go, only to be replaced by more, yet in the end, I still find myself looking for an even nicer Kohaku. And when I do, another of my 'pretty' koi will go. I feel it is a natural progression, a maturing of the koi keeper and his eye. I don't know why, but I understand why people can turn full circle and end up back with red and white fish. Simplistic beauty. A shoal of red and white fish simply looks more striking than a melee of colours.

    For me, the (often used in the koi world) term 'snob' quite simply sits with the koi keeper who believes he is better, more knowledgable, has a higher status, and derides owners of lesser koi, simply because he owns Japanese koi. No more and no less.

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