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Thread: Rambling About The Origin of Kohaku

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Rambling About The Origin of Kohaku

    Despite my interest in the historical roots of nishikigoi, I have not studied the origin of Kohaku. On numerous occasions I have read that Kohaku arose from Asagi.... the old form of Asagi, not the modern version for which Hosakai is so famous. The story I heard was that from spawnings of Asagi came Higoi and Shirogoi, which were crossed to create the early Kohaku. This is the main story told in Nishikigoi Mondo with some details, but it is also noted that there is historical reference to a colored carp with a white ground and red patches on the abdomen and gill plates in the period of 1804-1830, pre-dating Higoi/Shirogoi crosses. One can readily imagine a carp with the reddish patterning of Asagi on a whitish body. It is easy to imagine such a carp being kept and used as a parent, with dorsal patterning eventually occurring. The famous drawings of the early Kohaku taken to the Tokyo Exposition in 1914 reveal rather insipid examples of Kohaku which would be seen today as something from a flock spawning of low quality mutts, but we can see in them the traits we know as Kohaku.

    In the February 2016 issue of Nichirin, a bit different statement is made. Rather than a crossing of shiromuji (Shirogoi) and akamuji (Higoi), the statement is made: "As the Nishikigoi varieties were proceeding, white-and-red koi called Kohaku were established by crossbreeding a Mizu Asagi and a Higoi." The Mizu Asagi is a dull form of Asagi with no red and very weak underlying sumi, giving a dirty, shadowy appearance. The Nichirin statement is perhaps not too different from the usual story of white crossed with red, but the idea of lurking sumi in the original parentage is novel. I expect the Nichirin statement suffers from translation issues and a writer's imprecision. Nonetheless, it re-focuses my thinking about the origins of Kohaku. I have generally thought of the history of Kohaku as one focused on gaining stability of red pigment in a dorsal pattern. But that is just the past 100 years. For the centuries before, there had to be focus on eliminating sumi to create a white ground.

    Today we think of a shiromuji as a miserably poor thing to be culled as quickly as spotted. How amazing such a carp must have been at the time when carp were dark colored. Such a fish would have stood out. Producing more would have been an exciting adventure. The whiter ones would be particularly cherished. But, eliminating sumi altogether had to be very tough to do. It is contrary to the nature of carp. So much work, so many generations of rice farmers. The unsung heros of Nishikigoi are the ancients who created shiromuji.

    I can appreciate shiromuji for their contribution, but I do not want one taking up space in my pond. But, if someone could eliminate sumi from today's Shiro Utsuri, leaving only the true, pure white of today's best, I would give space to such a koi .... and would be pleased to call it Shirogoi.

    When you hear someone speak of the importance of Asagi as the root of Nishikigoi, they are speaking the truth. The big step, however, was creating the shiromuji. The credit for that goes to no one person. It took a bunch of villages in the mountains to give us that maligned goi.
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  2. #2
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    I find it hard to believe there would be no shiromuji that would be in your wish list. I profess ignorance, but is there a possibility that they would exist if not for the culling procedure that gives them no opportunity to prove themselves at a later stage in life? Pretty much like culling the ugly duckling before it became a gorgeous swan?

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    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Yerrag, I have not seen any shiromuji I would want to take up pond space. If I had unlimited space, perhaps I would keep one just for the place they hold in the history of Nishikigoi. But, there are lots of fish I would keep if I had unlimited space.

    I think the basic problem with shiromuji that are produced as a by-product of Kohaku (and sometimes Sanke) breeding is what we were discussing recently in regard to in Shiro Utsuri. The white ground that supports Beni is not is true white. The purest white is found in Shiro Utsuri, which has been bred to eliminate any hint of hue. That was not always true. Prior to the work of Omosako, it was common for Shiro Utsuri to have a rather dull white ground. It made the whole fish rather plain, IMO. But, then, the sumi was not so intense either. Of course, a number of breeders have contributed to the improvement of Shiro Utsuri, but none are in the league of Omosako. We usually think of Omosako for giving us Shiro Utsuri with improved body form and size. I would never depreciate the Omosako contribution in that regard. Still, I consider the refinement of shiroji to be dramatically important. ... I say 'dramatically' on purpose. It is the stark contrast of pure white and intense sumi that makes the best Shiro Utsuri what they are... dramatic. (Even if the original patterning of Utsuri is seldom seen in today's SUs.
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  4. #4
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    The purest white is found in Shiro Utsuri, which has been bred to eliminate any hint of hue.
    This goes to what our eyes perceive to be white. If we were to use how laundry detergents are marketed, they would use bright white as a proxy for superior whiteness. The addition of UV brighteners to these detergents gives the effect of brightness in the white, white comes out essentially to an even reflection of lights across all wavelengths of the visible spectrum. Many items considered white do not reflect as much on the blue-green spectrum, and lack of reflectiveness on this spectrum would not be noticeable, as our eyes easily adjust to whatever is the "whitest" white. But when that same whiteness is placed side by side against a white that is ever so slightly tinted with blue, that white would begin to appear either yellowish or reddish.

    It would be safe to say that, as with everything else, the purest white in Shiro Utsuri would be one that is very slightly bluish as well. If you don't have a very "pure" shiro utsuri and you would like to make it appear "purer," you could cheat a little and give the lighting a bluish cast, and voila, a nicer shiro utsuri would pop out.

    But not only would the white appear whiter under the slightly bluish lighting, the black would also appear deeper. That's because many blacks are also lacking reflectivity when it comes to the bluish-green wavelengths of the visible spectrum. Adding a blue cast would increase the reflectivity in the bluish-green part of the spectrum, and because this would tend to give the entire visible spectrum an even amount of reflectivity, what would appear to be a reddish black would now appear a much deeper black.

    Likewise, what helps whiten the shiroji would also help to deepen the black in the sumi of a shiro utsuri. If the shiroji is the canvas, and the sumi is the imperfect black paint that imparts a reddish black, overlaying the reddlish black on a white with a slight tinit of blue, would help deepen that sumi.

    It makes sense then, that as the white ground is made more pure in a shiro utsuri, the sumi would also become deeply black, not just as a matter of increased contrast arising from a brighter white, but also in combination with the sumi becoming deeper.

    On the other hand, the development of kohaku, being geared towards a beni that is more saturated than ever in the particular hue of red, it would also rely on the white canvas, the shiroji, to help make the beni more saturated. In order to do that, the shiroji has to be a white that would help make the red overlay more saturated. To do that, the white has to be less and less reflective on the cyan, or blue-green wavelength, as the less cyan there is in white, the more reddish the white would appear.

    This perhaps helps to explain how fruitless the search is for a shiro utsuri-like white in a kohaku bred for saturated beni. And that would explain Mike's frustration in finding a kohaku with the kind of ground that can be likened to that of a top-notch shiro utsuri.

  5. #5
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    What if there is a really white canvass and it's overlaid with nice beni steps?

    The bright white would have a slight bluish cast so that it won't appear yellow.

    With a nice beni overlaid on top of this white, what kind of beni would it have?

    It would be a beni with a slight bluish hue. Isn't this what we would describe as a gosanke with pink beni?

    Aren't such koi magnificent not only because the beni is unique and beautiful, but also because of the heightened contrast with the shiroji, as well as the brightness if the shiroji?

  6. #6
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Look for a Kohaku with a true white ground and quality beni, and you will have a very, very long search. You will find many in magazine photos, but those Kohaku are virtually never so white in person. You will find ones that have the look among tosai, but these are virtually always the 'hard white' that foretells fading beni as the fish grows. There are some lines that produce some individuals with a bright red on a nearly true white ground, but these do not become jumbo... at least not so far.

    So-called 'pink beni' is a wholly confusing label. First, there is nothing pink about it. Second, it is a label created to distinguish a more red beni from a more orange beni as an advancement in a particular bloodline, but now gets applied to any more red beni in just about any bloodline. I think the term has created more confusion than benefit.

    The beni with a bluish hue is the old 'purple Hi', which we once saw regularly in the tosai tanks of U.S. dealers. It was truly gorgeous... for the short time before it faded away. It has been quite some time since I saw 'purple Hi' Kohaku tosai around. I think the breeders have pretty much eliminated that pigment from their stocks. Either that or U.S. dealers have gotten better in their selections. Too many unhappy customers.

  7. #7
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    Look for a Kohaku with a true white ground and quality beni, and you will have a very, very long search. You will find many in magazine photos, but those Kohaku are virtually never so white in person. You will find ones that have the look among tosai, but these are virtually always the 'hard white' that foretells fading beni as the fish grows. There are some lines that produce some individuals with a bright red on a nearly true white ground, but these do not become jumbo... at least not so far.

    So-called 'pink beni' is a wholly confusing label. First, there is nothing pink about it. Second, it is a label created to distinguish a more red beni from a more orange beni as an advancement in a particular bloodline, but now gets applied to any more red beni in just about any bloodline. I think the term has created more confusion than benefit.

    The beni with a bluish hue is the old 'purple Hi', which we once saw regularly in the tosai tanks of U.S. dealers. It was truly gorgeous... for the short time before it faded away. It has been quite some time since I saw 'purple Hi' Kohaku tosai around. I think the breeders have pretty much eliminated that pigment from their stocks. Either that or U.S. dealers have gotten better in their selections. Too many unhappy customers.
    I'm attaching a file for so we can compare colors relative to each other.

    A nice tosai or nisai would have an orange-red coloration typically. As it grows older, this koi would gradually turn more bright red. I don't know if Carmine Red would adequately describe its coloration, but this red is still on the yellow side of red, which would still be close to being orange-red, but with red being more predominant. The rubine red you see is close to what I would associate with pink beni, although the rubine red you see is more more bluish in hue. Rightmost is a purple patch. I don't know if Mike you are referring to this kind of coloration in the "old 'purple hi'" you were referring to.

    Not having been around to see all manners of beni that abounds in the universe, I can only speculate as I did above that in order for a koi to have a very white ground, it has to have a ground that is slightly bluish. As the ground is overlaid with beni, the beni can't help but be slightly tinged with the bluishness of the ground. This would create a beni that can be perceived as different, in that it will be a red that has a very slight hue of blue. It may not be the same color as the rubine red shown, but it would still be a red that carries a lesser hint of blue. That kinda gives you an idea of the "pink beni" that I would associate with this color, although as Mike said there is no "pink" in it any way you slice it. Pink really has no hint of blue at all.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Rambling About The Origin of Kohaku-koi-color-comparison.jpg  

  8. #8
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    The 'rubine red' comes close to the old 'purple beni'. It is actually coming across as more purple than 'purple beni' was. ....You'll never see actual purple on a koi.

  9. #9
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Well, yes- but in a budo goromo, using a more dirty palette. Maybe. ☺

    Sent from my TouchPad using Tapatalk

  10. #10
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    i'd add that our scren rendition of Lithol Rubine isn't accurate. The Lithol Rubine color falls outside the color gamut rendition capability of our computer monitors. Lithol Rubine is far more saturated (less grayness). It is a saturated red with a slight tint of saturated blue.

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