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Thread: Contemporary Sumi

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Contemporary Sumi

    This summer I am raising three Showa acquired as tosai back in March. They were bred by Mat McCann using a female parent that could be categorized as a tricolor koi that is neither Sanke nor Showa, and definite Showa male parents. I have mostly been focused on their growth, which has been very good. Indeed, in some ways they have grown too well because they so quickly got past that 'cute little babies' stage that is so much fun to watch. Lately, however, it is the sumi that has had my attention. It seems very likely that two of the three will have the intense lacquer sumi Toshio Sakai calls 'Atarashi Sumi'. This is good as far as sumi quality goes. The atarashi sumi is solid and has a 'liquid', painted on appearance. Unlike Sanke sumi, it does not come up in a confetti-like chips of color that over time consolidate, the way we see sumi rise in the older line Matsunosuke Sanke. Nor does it rise from below like we usually see in Showa, first creating zones of kage 'gray' which intensify slowly over time. Instead, it seems, this sumi appears thickly on the surface and stays. It may expand some, spreading out like a puddle of paint. Or, it may contract a bit. But, it seems that at a comparative young age, what you see is what there will be. It simply does not seem to behave the way I learned about types of sumi.

    I went searching for information on developments in sumi to see if I was off-base in what I think I am observing, or if there was a good explanation that went beyond the usual 'improving Showa sumi by breeding to Sanke'. I have not found anything that really helps me understand the sumi on my 'no-longer-tosai' Showa (Showanke??). I think I'll need to wait until Fall when I go to New Jersey for harvest. Then I can check out how their siblings have done and let Mat educate me on his observations. I did come across a magazine article written by Mike Snaden in 2008 that has some discussion about changes in sumi. Perhaps it hints at answers, since my little Showa may be as much Sanke as anything. A condensed excerpt version follows [I apologize in advance for any erroneous impressions caused by my editing]:

    Snaden:

    Sumi is an aspect of koi that carries a great deal of importance in Japan. This
    importance is directed not only towards its quality, but also its style and where it falls
    on the koi. Over the years Sumi has changed somewhat – in some ways this is for the
    better, but it has its drawbacks ...

    It is important to assess Sumi quality. In Sanke this isn’t too much of a problem, but
    when it comes to Showa and Shiro Utsuri, you need to get as accurate an idea of Sumi
    quality as you can, as even if the koi develops a lot of Sumi, it doesn’t mean that the quality
    of it will be any good. When it comes to Sumi, the criteria are exactly the same for
    Showa, as they are for Shiro Utsuri. ... Sumi will start at the rear of the koi, and develop towards
    the lateral line, and progress up, and forwards from this point. [Except, the head sumi develops independently
    and may be slower or faster in developing than the sumi on the body of the koi.] So, what we need
    to look for, is evidence of good quality dark and glossy Sumi. Look for some evidence of good glossy
    Sumi around the lateral line area of the tail tube (assuming there isn’t good Sumi
    elsewhere on the koi, on white ground). It may help to bend the koi a little, as you
    should see the root of the Sumi widening as the scales are stretched farther apart. If you
    can see good Sumi that is like lacquered coal, then there is hope that you can expect other
    underlying areas of Sumi to come up and be of similar quality as the koi grows up. If the
    Sumi is grey in its appearance, or is present only in the Fukurin, then there is a high
    likelihood that the Sumi will never come up, or will be of low quality. With Showa, you will
    find any Sumi that lies on the red pattern will always look blacker than the Sumi that is on
    white ground. The red pattern acts like an ‘undercoat’ that will always make the Sumi
    look better than it really is, so Sumi on these areas must be completely ignored.
    An interesting note with Showa is that you are wiser to choose ones where underlying
    developing Sumi looks similar on the red pattern, as it does on the white ground, as
    this kind of Sumi will usually become much better. If, however, a Showa has a lot of Sumi
    that looks finished where it falls on top of the pattern, yet looks like Kage Sumi on all the
    white areas, then this kind of koi is best well avoided, as it is most likely that the Sumi on
    the white ground will never come up!


    With Shiro Utsuri and Showa ... water hardness affects ... low quality Sumi, ... but when it comes to
    high quality Sumi, you will find that it will generally develop irrespective of [hardness and water temperature].

    Another way to help you choose Shiro Utsuri or Showa is to place them into a
    bowl and watch them for several minutes. If you do this with a number of
    prospective purchases, you will find that some stay looking good for the duration,
    but others will have Sumi that will literally turn grey whilst the koi is in the bowl. The
    latter should be completely dismissed, and returned to the pond.

    When it comes to Sanke Sumi things are easier in terms of getting lucky with quality,
    but bloodlines really tend to confuse the issue when it comes to choosing and predicting
    Sumi development. ...it is actually more of a gamble that requires a good deal of ‘bloodline’
    understanding in order to get better ‘odds’. This is where Sumi starts to get confusing.

    Even as recently as 10 years or so ago, Sumi was a relatively simple matter as far as Sanke
    is concerned. It was pretty much a case of looking for Sumi quality that was apparent on
    the surface, and looking a little more carefully for signs of underlying Sumi that was yet to
    surface. Ten years ago, Sadazo was probably the most popular lineage of Sanke around...
    Sadazo was very ‘safe’ and predictable. ...Matsunosuke was also around, but not generally so popular in the
    Western World. Kichinai was also popular, and had a reputation for being very orderly
    and neat. Nowadays ...it is all so much more complicated. Modern day Sumi ... requires a lot more insight.
    This is predominantly because of the introduction of Magoi blood ...by Toshio Sakai (Matsunosuke),
    and Koi No Youhei. Since then, the majority of Japan’s breeders have introduced the
    Matsunosuke line into their own Sanke breedings in order to increase the size of the
    koi produced. Most breeders, however, tend to mix this line with other lineages in order to
    produce koi with heavier bodies, but also to try to keep the Sumi a little more orderly.
    In Japan nowadays, many breeders’ Sumi is criticised for being too unrefined, and
    unpredictable. ...[M]odern day Sumi ...has a nasty habit of appearing where you least expect....
    This ‘new’ Sumi that many breeders are producing tends to have nice quality and Kiwa, but also
    tends to develop on the surface, rather than from underlying Sumi. As such, it is possible
    to buy Sanke of this type, that have very little Sumi, and yet as big koi [their Sumi] can become overpowering and messy...
    If you pay attention to the breeder’s bloodlines, you can identify this kind of Sumi and use it to
    your advantage. ...[I]f a breeder tells you that his Sanke is of Matsunosuke bloodline, or from Sadazo line,
    for example, this really isn’t enough.... [I]f a breeder’s ‘Matsunosuke’ line Sanke that he is
    offering you is bred from a Matsunosuke female, crossed with Sadazo males, you will
    get offspring that will exhibit traits from each parent. So, some offspring will inherit the
    modern Matsunosuke Sumi from the mother, and some will have Sadazo style Sumi inherited
    from the male side. The same can also be said of Beni, and body types. [Both male and female
    oyagoi bloodlines must be known to have insight for predicting the future.]

    Modern day Sanke Sumi has a habit of developing extremely quickly, primarily
    because of the Matsunosuke influence, but other Sumi types develop in different ways.
    Sadazo develops slow and steady from underlying areas, and Kichinai Sumi can look
    quite prominent in tosai ...and yet the same koi as nisai can lose most of their Sumi,
    only for it to re-appear as sansai (three years old) onwards, albeit in different places....
    Other Sumi lines can appear to look promising, but never surface or develop. For
    this reason, it is important to understand how the koi develop as fry.

    Disclaimer time! The following is from my own observations of having been in
    Japan for a few summers learning breeding and culling, and is purely my
    own opinion, which may not reflect those of others. When culling Sanke fry at say one month
    old, the vast majority of the ‘keepers’ will be heavily covered in Sumi, pretty much irrespective
    of bloodline. This Sumi covering is so heavy the Kohaku pattern you are looking for in the
    selection process can be hard to see beneath the Sumi. But, from this point on, the Sumi during
    the next few months of the Sanke’s life, will slowly recede. But, it is my opinion, that differing
    bloodlines produce different speeds at which the Sumi recedes. So comparing for example, tosai from
    Matsunosuke, Sadazo, and Kichinai… In autumn, many Matsunosuke line tosai will have
    very little Sumi, because it receded very quickly during the first summer. Sadazo Sumi on the
    other hand, has receded but retained some underlying Sumi as tosai in the autumn. The
    Kichinai koi however, still look more like all the other koi did a few months earlier as fry during
    the selection, because the Sumi’s receding process has taken place much more slowly.
    You are probably now asking yourself, “What is the relevance of all this?” The
    answer is simple, and one that a history student gave to me… “How do you know
    where you are going, if you don’t know where you came from?” What I mean by
    this is that by understanding how the tosai may have looked as fry, and then seeing
    the koi as tosai, you will then have a rough idea what the development traits of the
    Sumi bloodline are likely to be. So, if the koi looks to have Sadazo line Sumi, you can
    expect it to surface, and to creep a little when the koi gets older.
    In the case of Matsunosuke type Sumi, you will find some koi with conventional type
    Sumi (because of the other parent being ‘non-Matsunosuke’), and some will have very small
    flecks of surface Sumi, almost like grey scratches in the edges of the scales. The latter
    Sumi is Sumi that has receded very quickly as fry, and will very likely develop a lot as nisai,
    and becoming very heavy with Sumi as sansai. The cautionary note here is that although this
    kind of Sumi is great fun to watch, if you choose one with too many areas of this tiny
    scratchy Sumi, then the koi will most likely become very heavy and messy when big.
    Kichinai on the other hand is different, as with tosai, the koi will appear to have quite a
    lot of Sumi. But, in the case of the mud pond, this Sumi will continue to recede as the koi
    grows from tosai through to nisai. Some koi will have Sumi return as nisai when
    harvested, but most don’t really develop greatly until sansai and older. This Sumi,
    although slow in developing, often turns out nice, and very refined.
    Last edited by MikeM; 08-05-2014 at 10:12 AM. Reason: clarification

  2. #2
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Over 6 years later, I think things have gotten more jumbled than what Snaden presented in 2008. In the case of my 'no-longer-tosai' Showa, the two on which I am most focused seem to have the surface-developing Sanke sumi Snaden describes, but showing up in a Showa-like pattern. To date, there is not much more sumi than there was when these were small tosai, nor has the configuration much changed. I'd like to see some of that expansion and contraction Snaden talks about in regard to types of Sanke sumi, and which we have historically seen in Showa. ...It would make me more comfortable guessing about their future. As it is, I'll just wait and see. That's what we always end up doing anyway, don't we?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    Over 6 years later, I think things have gotten more jumbled than what Snaden presented in 2008. In the case of my 'no-longer-tosai' Showa, the two on which I am most focused seem to have the surface-developing Sanke sumi Snaden describes, but showing up in a Showa-like pattern. To date, there is not much more sumi than there was when these were small tosai, nor has the configuration much changed. I'd like to see some of that expansion and contraction Snaden talks about in regard to types of Sanke sumi, and which we have historically seen in Showa. ...It would make me more comfortable guessing about their future. As it is, I'll just wait and see. That's what we always end up doing anyway, don't we?

    And there are those Mike who merely put this off a "marketing" ploy....As was said on this forum before, "really a new black?"

    And not quite sure, but I personally would hazard a guess that they throughout the course in "koi history" they would have bred sanke and showa long before 2008?

    I did a judge's presentation at our seminar a few years back on the differences between showa and sanke of which of course you cannot delve into without talking about Atarashi Sumi. And I pretty much now at least come to the conclusion that over time as things become more "stable," the more things tended to return to the norm, exceptions noted of course, but generally speaking....

    Just to note,

    My other conclusions were,

    If you want sanke sumi buy a sanke
    If you want show sumi buy a showa
    And if a judge has a hard time deciding if it is a showa or sanke, then it probably will not do that well...

    And lastly, thus far we have no "Shwanke" class


  4. #4
    Jumbo Akai-San's Avatar
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    FYI. I believe atarashi translates nowadays to "New". So Sakai-san is probably seeing this development as the "new sumi".

  5. #5
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Well, Dale, I don't think it can be called 'just a marketing ploy' when big name breeders try to pay large sums to get oyagoi with it. They aren't prone to spend for just a label.

    Yes, sumi is sumi in the sense that all sumi is a black pigment. However, that's where the sameness stops. If it didn't, there wouldn't be anything much for a judge to evaluate. It would all be the same.

    Improvements in sumi have been quite dramatic. From one year to the next, the improvements may seem debateable; but the longer term reveals there cannot be a debate. It is a fact that sumi has improved. What was 'Showa sumi' in the past can hardly be found today without looking through culls and flock spawns. Today's 'Showa sumi' is much more intense. And, the Sanke influence affects how it develops over time, and its placement. Increasingly, Showa have huge blocks of black pigment, as if Sanke steps became giant steps. The wrapping is less obvious as more and more Showa appear with little or no sumi on the abdomen. The Momotaro 2014 Shinkokai GC, Lion Queen, has hardly any sumi below the lateral line. It simply is not the same sumi as was seen in Showa in the late 20th century, much less 30 or 50 years ago.

    I have a Momotaro Showa with sumi like that possessed by Lion Queen. (I wish she was otherwise similar in body form and beni!!) That sumi is not the same as the atarashi sumi of Sakai. The difference is not just a matter of intensity or sheen, but also how it lays on the fish. I can see that it is different. I just wish I could predict how it will develop... and whether it will expand over time.

  6. #6
    Tategoi bobbysuzanna's Avatar
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    Any chance we could have some pictures? They are worth a thousand words! Especially if you can show the same sumi at different angles.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    Well, Dale, I don't think it can be called 'just a marketing ploy' when big name breeders try to pay large sums to get oyagoi with it. They aren't prone to spend for just a label.

    Yes, sumi is sumi in the sense that all sumi is a black pigment. However, that's where the sameness stops. If it didn't, there wouldn't be anything much for a judge to evaluate. It would all be the same.

    Improvements in sumi have been quite dramatic. From one year to the next, the improvements may seem debateable; but the longer term reveals there cannot be a debate. It is a fact that sumi has improved. What was 'Showa sumi' in the past can hardly be found today without looking through culls and flock spawns. Today's 'Showa sumi' is much more intense. And, the Sanke influence affects how it develops over time, and its placement. Increasingly, Showa have huge blocks of black pigment, as if Sanke steps became giant steps. The wrapping is less obvious as more and more Showa appear with little or no sumi on the abdomen. The Momotaro 2014 Shinkokai GC, Lion Queen, has hardly any sumi below the lateral line. It simply is not the same sumi as was seen in Showa in the late 20th century, much less 30 or 50 years ago.

    I have a Momotaro Showa with sumi like that possessed by Lion Queen. (I wish she was otherwise similar in body form and beni!!) That sumi is not the same as the atarashi sumi of Sakai. The difference is not just a matter of intensity or sheen, but also how it lays on the fish. I can see that it is different. I just wish I could predict how it will develop... and whether it will expand over time.
    Mike, all in all I agree...the lines between the show sumi and sanke sumi are almost nonexistant, before when you could distinguish between the 2 by the quality of the sumi, now adays, that just is not the case.....the marketing ploy, there are always skeptics in this hobby, I am sure you even know a few, and they will always be around....

    The question that I ask, is the atarashi sumi that new?.....if you look at some of the more established lines, momotaro even started off his showa line (Mako I believe, although could be mistaken) with Sanke + Sanke to start a showa blood line, and also introduced sanke later on down the line as well, first for the body qualities, later for the sumi.......

    It just sometimes begs the question, if they have been crossing sanke/showa together for some time, conceivably before 2008, how come there was no Atarashi sumi to speak of before then? How many "big name" breeders are establishing lines with Atarashi sumi?

    But what I have noticed, even with Saki the early offspring had quite large, blotchy sumi, albeit sanke, but later on, as it "stabilized" more or less the sumi "returned to it's normal pattern/orientation" but with the inky-black depth and quality to it that one would come to expect on a sanke, but as you mentioned did not start out as one would generally think "sanke sumi" would...

    I guess we should look at the bigger picture, do we want to "blend" showa and sanke.....I know I made light of it in my prior post, but do we not want to see traditional showa sumi and traditional sanke sumi? As you said mike, if there were not those differences, there would be nothing to judge?

    I still want to see sanke sumi on a sanke on a traditional sanke body....

    I still want to see showa sumi on a showa, on a traditional showa body.....

    Perhaps I am too much of a traditionalist....

    Don't really want to see the "Big Three" turn into the "Terrible Two?"

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobbysuzanna View Post
    Any chance we could have some pictures? They are worth a thousand words! Especially if you can show the same sumi at different angles.
    I do not know if this is allowed, but here is, actually 2 articles in the newsletter of the Southeast section of the BKKS from March 2007 for your reading enjoyment, these were posted on their BKKS website and I had received permission from them to use this newsletter as a resource for my presentation.....Please, if this violates any such rules let me know and/or remove it promptlyContemporary Sumi-hotspot6.pdf
    ricshaw likes this.

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    Jumbo jnorth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaleRG View Post
    I do not know if this is allowed, but here is, actually 2 articles in the newsletter of the Southeast section of the BKKS from March 2007 for your reading enjoyment, these were posted on their BKKS website and I had received permission from them to use this newsletter as a resource for my presentation.....Please, if this violates any such rules let me know and/or remove it promptlyClick image for larger version. 

Name:	Hotspot6.pdf 
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    You got permission and listed the source so its all good
    Koi-Unit
    My personal koi page Updated 7/8/07
    ZNA Potomac Koi Club

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnorth View Post
    You got permission and listed the source so its all good
    Thanks Jim, and in that light, there are 3 more articles as well....And IContemporary Sumi-hotspot7.pdfContemporary Sumi-hotspot8.pdf do have some pics as well, just a matter of finding them......

    Apparently I have exceeded my allotment of attachments, and can't get the last one posted....so will see what I can do.....

    If at first you don't succeed, use your own hosting....

    http://new.thegingerichs.net/files/Hotspot13.pdf
    ricshaw likes this.

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