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Thread: Musings About Kujaku

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Musings About Kujaku

    I was looking through some show photos and noticed that the Hikarimoyo winners were all Kujaku. There isn't anything too surprising about that. For as long as I have paid attention to such things, Kujaku dominate Hikarimoyo. What is it about Kujaku that causes judges, in Japan and elsewhere, to so favor them over Hariwake? The more I think about it, the less rational it seems to be. After all, comparing Kujaku to Hariwake is like comparing Goshiki to Kohaku. In the past I've heard Kujaku extolled for their difficulty it achieving appropriate finish for the matsuba scalation, sometimes referenced as 'the complexity' of Kujaku. But, that complexity is no different than the complexity of Goshiki.

    When I look at the body forms of Kujaku and Hariwake, I see much greater weakness in Kujaku. There is a tendency for a weak tail in Kujaku, and a tendency toward an enlarged abdomen creating a disproportion in the body lines. Hariwake can suffer from these issues as well, but one can find far more Hariwake with excellent body form.

    There aren't many Kujaku that can grow to 80cm and still look like much. Most seem to peak at a size below 70cm (60-65cm seems the tipping point???), and then the metallic shine dulls considerably and spreading sumi blotches can wholly ruin the koi. Hariwake suffer the same dulling of their shine as they grow, but escape the blotchy sumi shadows that are the bane of Kujaku; and Hariwake can reach 80cm while keeping good body form. Hariwake do have a tendency to develop some secondary color blushes or some speckles of color with age, faults shared with Kujaku. It seems to me that judges are more willing to overlook these specks and blushes on a Kujaku than on a Hariwake. I do not understand why. I can see them, so I don't think it is the matsuba scalation tricking the judges' eye.

    No doubt, the Kujaku is a grand creature. It is the gaudy peacock that attracts everyone's attention, particularly when small. That high shine which small metallic koi possess can mesmerize, and the play of the three colors adds to the attraction... even if matsuba scalation is not considered a third color for benching/judging, our eyes tell us that there are three colors. In every other aspect of koi appreciation/evaluation, however, gaudiness does not earn particular favor with judges. Somehow, it seems to do so for Kujaku.

    I can only guess that in the misty past there were Japanese judges who became enamored of Kujaku and considered Hariwake common. So, Kujaku got a leg up and a viewpoint became tradition, with the following generations of judges hewing the principle that the complexity of Kujaku made it a special case for admiration over the lowly Hariwake. At the same time, I cannot think of anything that can be said in favor of Kujaku over Hariwake that cannot be said for Goshiki over Kohaku. But, I'd never suggest the complexity of Goshiki should excuse any of its shortcomings compared to Kohaku.

    Over time, this special favor in which Kujaku is held has had consequences. These are breeders in Japan who work with Kujaku and are respected for their efforts. I am aware of none who have made Hariwake a life's work, and none held in special regard for their Hariwake. No, the lowly Hariwake is just a colorful metallic produced for the export trade and sold off mostly as tosai to languish in undersized ponds around the world... outside Japan. The one exception is the 'Lemon Hariwake', that rare occasional one with truly yellow pigment on a silver ground. But, even with these, only a very, very few are ever given a second year in the mud; and since Doitsu Hariwake display shine so much better than wagoi, it will usually be a Doitsu Lemon Hariwake one sees on a dealer's website, if one sees one at all, and she will sell quickly at a relatively high price. Finding an equally high-priced Kujaku is not so difficult. Every major dealer will have one or two among the imports for the year, because their high-end customers are as enamored of Kujaku as the judges.

    It's one of those things that just is.

  2. #2
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    I once wanted a kujaku badly, mainly because it is photogenic. But a dealer told me that he doesn't carry the variety because he found it hard to move off inventory with his clients mainly focused on gosanke. It struck me as odd then, being new to the hobby. Now, I realize that my desire for bling would have to give way to more practical considerations as proper stocking and water quality. Glad to know that I'm not missing too much, after learning here from MikeM that the metallic luster doesn't stay as nice as the kujaku matures. Still, pictures of show kujaku are stunning. Am sure seeing a champion kujaku live would be better, no?

    Hariwake pics don't impress, seeming flat and undramatic compared to a kujaku. Besides, white and yellow don't provide much contrast.

  3. #3
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    Kujaku's are one of the most complicated varieties having many different required quality elements in addition to the standard conformation prerequisites. Most major shows in Japan have separate Kujaku and Hariwaki show classes.

    I have been taught to think of a kujaku as a gin matsuba ogon with a dorsal kohaku pattern. Lots going on and lots of distractions to hide a tendency to have short and fat bodies when mature. One theory is that since the original kujakus were doitsu many inherit their shape from german food carp. Moving from conformation to the other quality elements the hikari metallic quality is a key component of kujaku appreciation/show rankings. The tendency of all hikarigoi is to the metallic shine to diminish as they mature. Kujaku matsuba scale border sumi ornamentation causes an significant obstacle to having a strong hikari effect. Also it is very rare to find strong sharp even finished matsuba edges. Additionally the dorsal "kohaku" pattern can be another distraction that can obscure what is often the uneven hi quality seen in many kujaku's. BTW many kujakus tend to have a more lateral type hi pattern which is not the preferred dorsal oriented kohaku pattern for this variety. All these required elements make hi quality mature kujakus rare and very expensive. Sadly it also means kujakus rarely maintain in peak condition for very long and are usually the cut flower analogy is fairly accurate.
    Disclosure:These opinions are based on my experience and conversations with persons I consider accomplished koi keepers and do not reflect the viewpoint of any organization.

  4. #4
    Honmei Brutuscz's Avatar
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    I am a huge Kujaku fan. You have seen the one I competed here in the past. A male from Kaneko that won the New England young koi show. But...truly a cut flower. It kept it's pattern one more season...grew to 24in, and lost it completely. Ended as an ugly gray fish. I think a good one is simply stunning....grabs you attention and doesn't let go. If you try to hunt one...be prepared for a long search, a good one is difficult to find. When you do find it...be prepared to spend $$$. It is difficult to find, expensive and stunning...what is not to love? But..I think the difficulty level makes it a real challenge. The sheen, matsuba pattern, kohaku pattern, conformation...really tough to get it all right in this variety. It is like waiting for the sun, moon and stars to align. But, when it all comes together...Wow!!!


    If your desire to succeed is greater than your desire to fail, then you will succeed.

  5. #5
    Honmei Brutuscz's Avatar
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    Here are two that I have owned. The development picture is my GC from 16in to 24in.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Musings About Kujaku-11-5-11kuj.jpg   Musings About Kujaku-kujakugc.jpg  

  6. #6
    Tategoi Loco4Koi's Avatar
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    I love mine. (My avatar) Most I see have an overall muddled look. Mine is clean, bright eyed, great skin(even though it yellowed during it's time in the show tank), and he retuculation if the scales are awesome. When I bought it a year ago I thought it was a male because tge colors were so rich. Turns out it's female and is still getting better. This time next year it'll be much bigger and even better looking. One good sized scar on it's side from a large ulcer, but you can't see it from above. Mine is definitely not short or fat and shows no signs of "withering like a cut flower"

  7. #7
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brutuscz View Post
    Here are two that I have owned. The development picture is my GC from 16in to 24in.
    Truly stunning. Obviously you love kujakus, willing to pay a good deal for one even knowing that the enjoyment can be limited by its peaking early. Are there any lessons you've learned to keep a kujaku from finishing too early or once finished, to keep its coloration, metallic luster, and scalation from going downhill?

  8. #8
    Honmei Brutuscz's Avatar
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    Thank you. I wish I had some real insight. I owned a few other nice ones. They have all gotten darker and darker. It might be related to my pond being an epdm black liner. Sometimes the black background can promote sumi development. I think a pond with a lighter color might help. I have 3-1200gal pools with a white bottom for over wintering. The koi I keep in there tend to stay lighter. I saw the same issue with ochibas, chagoi and a few other varieties. I think attempting rapid growth might weaken the beni. I believe that if I let mine hit it's peak, kept it with a white bottomed pool and limited feedings...it might have stayed better for a longer time. Just a hunch though. Might test it one day with the right koi.

  9. #9
    Tategoi Loco4Koi's Avatar
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    Another pic of mine... low quality pictures though
    these pics are also older. She's longer and prettier now
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Musings About Kujaku-img_20130328_174728_919.jpg  
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  10. #10
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Kujaku sure have bling. I have seen some GinRin Kujaku, which sounds like a koi that would trounce a regular Kujaku in the bling category; but I actually found them lesser koi. The sparkling interfered with the shine. (Perhaps at a larger size the gin rin would not have that effect?? Don't know. I cannot recall seeing a GinRin Kujaku over maybe 10 inches.) Each year, as I wander around the vendor vats at shows, there will inevitably be some little tosai Kujaku that stand out as the most strikingly beautiful gems of all. If there was a way to keep them small, and keep that high shine and intense color, I'd surely get a whole school of them.

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