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Japanese Koi Terminology

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Japanese Koi Terminology

Definitions of Japanese Words, Phrases, Colours and Varieties of Koi
Japanese Koi

Once you have been in the koi hobby for a while, you might begin to take an interest in the many different varieties of koi. As you start to learn the names of your favourite koi, it seems like people are speaking a different language, and that is because they are – literally. Since the birthplace of koi is Japan, and the majority of quality koi are bred in Japan, it’s no wonder that most of the terminology used to describe koi is Japanese. Below you will find some of the common definitions of the Japanese terms used to describe koi.

How to Use This Guide

We have included a guide to help with the pronunciation of the Japanese words and phrases below. Here is how it works: The Japanese word or phrase is written in bold. Next to it, inside the brackets () is the word spelled phonetically.

Example: Asagi – (ah SAH gee) The capitalized letters represent the syllable where the accent is placed.     


These are the colours most commonly associated with koi.

Ai – (eye) Blue 
Aka – (AH kah) Red
Beni – (BEN ee) Red / Orange
Cha – (chah) Brown 
Gin – (geen) Shiny, reflective, silver metallic
Hi – (HEE) Red
Karasu – (KAH rah soo) Black – literally means crow.
Ki – (kee) Yellow
Kin – (keen) Metallic gold
Midori – (mee DOH ree) Green
Murusaki – (MOO rah sah KEE) Purple
Nezu – (NEH zoo) Light Grey
Orenji – (oh REHN gee) Orange
Shiro – (SHEE roh) White
Sora – (SOH rah) Grey
Sumi – (SOO mee) Black

Koi Varieties

Below you will find the names and descriptions of some of the most common koi varieties.

Aigoromo – (eye go ROW mow) A Goromo koi with blue or indigo reticulation. Basically a Kohaku whose red scales have blue semicircular borders, giving the koi a reticulated pattern

Aka Bekko – (AH kah BECK koh) A red koi with black markings

Aka Matsuba – (AH kah maht SOO bah) A red koi with a black ‘pine-cone’ pattern in the scales along the back.

Akame Kigoi – (Ah kah meh KEE goy) An albino yellow koi with red eyes 

Asagi – (ah SAH gee) A gray-blue reticulated scaled koi with hi (red) along the lateral lines, cheeks and in the fins

Bekko – (BEH koh) Single color koi with black markings

Benigoi – (BEN ee goy) A non metallic red koi

Beni Kumonryu – (BEN ee koo mahn droo) Kumonryu with red markings

Budo Goromo – (BOO doh go ROW mow) A white koi with a purplish, grape like patterns  

Chagoi –  (CHAH goy) Non metallic light brown koi

Doitsu – (DOYT soo) alos called German koi that are not fully scaled, usually with a row of large plate scales along each lateral line and a row on either side of the dorsal fin

Gin Matsuba – (GEEN maht ZOO bah) A metallic silver koi with a black ‘pine cone’ (matsuba) pattern in the scales. 

Godan Kohaku – (GOH dahn koh HAH koo) A white koi with a five step hi pattern

Gosanke – (goh SAHN keh) A term that refers to the 3 most popular varieties of koi: Kohaku, Sanke, and Showa

Goshiki – (goh SHEE kee) A koi with a 5-colour pattern which includes white, red, black, and Light blue and dark blue

Hariwake – (HAH ree WAH keh) A 2 colour koi, with platinum and metallic orange or yellow

Hikarimono – (hee KAH ree MOH noh) All metallic koi with two or more colors, except metallic Utsuri and Showa 

Hikarimoyo – (hee KAH ree MOH yoh) Metallic koi with patterns

Hikarimuji – (hee KAH ree MOO jee)Metallic single coloured koi including Ogon and Matsuba

Kagami – (kah GAH mee) An old koi variety with mirror scales on both the dorsal and ventral sides

Karasu – (KAH rah soo) A totally black koi, sometimes with a blue haze

Karasugoi – (KAH rah SOO goy) A black koi from the Asagi line

Kawarimono – (kah WAH ree MOH noh) All non-metallic koi that don’t fit into any other classification

Kawarigoi – (kah WAH ree goy) The new classification for Kawarimono koi

Kigoi – (KEE goy) A yellow non metallic koi

Kikusui – (KEE koo swee) A metallic doitsu Hariwake Ogon 

Kin Ki Utsuri – (KEEN kee OOT soo ree) Metallic black koi  with gold markings 

Kin Showa – (KEEN SHOW wah) Metallic Showa koi

Kohaku – (koh HAH koo) A koi with a white body and red markings

Koromo – (koh ROH moh) Translates to ‘robed’,  describes koi that have a white body, overlaid by red patterns with reticulation

Kujaku – (koo JAH koo) A reticulated metallic white koi with red, orange or golden markings.

Kumonryu – (KOO mahn droo) A black Doitsu koi with  random white patterns that change continuously until mature

Magoi – (MAH goy) Mud carp, originally wild carp

Matsuba – (maht SOO bah) A single color koi with with scale reticulation (pine-cone scale pattern), can be metallic or non-metallic 

Matsukawabake – (maht SOO kah wah BAHK keh) A black and white koi where the pattern changes over time ( a scaled version of a Kumonryu)

Midorigoi – (mee DOH ree goy) A green doitsu koi

Nidan Kohaku – (nee DAHN koh HAH koo) A 2-step Kohaku 

Ochibashigure – (oh CHEE bah shee GOO reh)  A grey koi with one or more cha (brown) patterns. Translates to ‘Autumn leaves on the water’. Often called Ochiba

Sandan Kohaku– (SAHN dahn koh HAH koo) A 3-Step Kohaku

Sanke – (SAHN keh) A white koi with hi (red) and sumi (black) patterns 

Shirogoi – (SHEE roh goy) White koi

Showa – (SHOH wah) A black koi with hi (red) and shiro (white)

Shusui – (SHOO swee) An blue Doitsu koi with hi (red) markings on the sides of the body and head

Sorogoi – (SOH roh goi) Gray koi

Taisho Sanke – (TYE shoh SAHN keh) Full name for Sanke koi

Tancho – (TAHN choh) A koi with a single hi (red) spot on the head only

Utsuri – (oot SOO ree)  A two coloured koi,  a black koi with one other color; white, red, or yellow

Wagoi – (WAH goy) Scaled koi – virtually all koi except Doitsu

Yamabuki – (YAH mah BOO kee) Bright metallic gold or yellow koi

Yamatonishiki – (YAH mah toh nee SHEE kee) Metallic Sanke

Yondan Kohaku – (YAHN dahn koh HAH koo) A 4-Step Kohaku

General Koi Terminology

Below you will find the words, terminology and phrases commonly used to describe koi.

Aka – (AH kah)  Entire red body

Aka hana – (AH kah HAH nah) Red nose

Akame –  (AH kah may) The red iris in the eye of an albino koi. Often seen in Kigoi

Akebi – (ah KEH bee) light blue

Ami – (ah ME) Net

Amime – (ah ME meh) Mesh or scales in a net pattern

Aragoke – (ah rah GO keh) Large armour or plate scales

Atama – (ah TAH mah) Head crown

Ato – (AH toh) Late-appearing usually referring to sumi that often develop later than other colours

Beni – (BEN ee) Describes deep solid red

Beta-gin – (BEH tah deen) a type of gin-rin scale, where the whole scale sparkles

Boke – (BOH kee) Undeveloped Showa sumi

Bozu – (boh ZOO) No hi on the head, bald head

Budo – (BOO doh) A pattern of colored scales resembling a bunch of grapes

Danmoyo – (dahn MOW yow) A stepped pattern

Doh – (doh) Body

Doitsu – (DOYT soo) also called German koi that are not fully scaled, usually with a row of large plate scales along each lateral line and a row on either side of the dorsal fin

Fucarin – (FOO kah reen) The area of skin between the scales giving a ‘golf ball’ like appearance

Fukurin – (FOO koo reen) Mesh pattern or reticulated effect (vignette) involving scales and skin

Giku –(GEE koo)  Relates to the swimming mode of a koi with a deformed body.

Gin – (geen) Shiny, reflective, silver metallic.

Ginrin or Gin-Rin – (geen reen) Refers to sparkling scales, often called diamond scales

Godan – (GOH dahn) Five step pattern

Goi – (goy) Fish

Goke – (GOH keh) Fish scale

Gotenzakura – (goh tehn ZAH koo rah) Cherry pattern 

Hachi  – (HAH chee) Head

Hara – (hah RAH) Abdominal area

Hi – (HEE) A term for red

Hikari – (hee KAH ree) Metallic

Hikarimono – (hee KAH ree MOH noh) Single-coloured metallic koi

Hikarimoyo – (hee KAH ree MOH yoh) Multicolored metallic koi

Hikari-moyomono – (hee KAH ree MOH yoh MOH noh) A classification including all metallic koi with two or more colors, except metallic Utsuri and Showa

Hikarimuji – (hee KAH ree MOO gee) Single-coloured metallic koi

Ichimatsu – (EE chee maht soo) Checkered pattern

Inazuma – (EE nah ZOO mah) Lighting strike pattern

Ippon hi – (EE pohn HEE) A continuous red pattern from head to tail

Iro – (EE row) Colour

Jari – (JAH ree) Literally means gravel

Jarisumi – (JAH ree SOO mee) Small black sumi spots

Kabuto – (kah BOO toh) Means ‘helmet’. Refers to a koi with a head colour that is different from its body

Kana – (KAH nah) Male koi

Katamoyo – (KAH tah MOH yoh) A pattern that is present only on one side of the body

Kawagoi – (KAH wah goy) A koi with no scales except for some reflective scales on the dorsal surface

Kawarimono – (kah WAH ree MOH noh) All non-metallic koi that don’t fit into any other classification

Kawarigoi – (kah WAH ree goy) The new term for Kawarimono

Kin – (keen) Metallic gold

Kindai – (keen DYE) Modern

Kin Gin-Rin – (keen geen deen) also known as Gin-Rin (geen deen) Koi with silver or gold-colored sparkling scales

Kiwa – (KEE wah) The trailing edge of a pattern

Koishi – (koy shee) Nishikigoi breeders

Koke – (KOH keh) Scale

Kokenami – (KOH keh NAH mee) Line of scales

Kuchi – (KOO chee) Lips

Kuchibeni – (KOO chee BEN eee) A koi with red lips

Kutsubera – (KOO tsoo beh RAH) Shoehorn or U-shape pattern on the head

Magoi – (MAH goy) Mud carp, originally wild carp

Maruten – (MOH roo ten) A separate, self contained hi (red) pattern on the head with other hi patterns on the body

Menkaburi – (MEHN kah BOO ree) Hi (red) covering the entire face or head 

Menware – (MEHN wah reh) Traditional black head patterns of Showa and Utsuri

Motoaka – (MOH toh AH kah) Red markings at the base of the pectoral fins

Motoguro – (MOH toh GOO roh) Black markings at the base of the pectoral fins

Namikin – (nah MEE keen) The caudal or tail fin

Namitate – (nah MEE tah teh) Dorasl Fin

Nishikigoi – (nee SHEE kee goy) ‘Jewelled’ carp 

Nisai – (NEE sye) A koi in its second year – up to two years old

Odome – (oh DOH meh) Last marking before the tail

Ojime – (oh GEE meh) Gap between the last pattern marking and the tail

Ozuke – (oh ZOO keh) The base of the tail

Pongoi – (POHN goy) Good quality fish

Rin – (deen) Scale

Sansai – (SAHN sye) A koi in its third year – up to three years old

Sashi – (SAH shee) The leading edge of a pattern element

Shimi – (SHEE mee) Undesirable, small black spots or dots, no larger than a single scale

Shiroji – (shee ROH gee) White area

Sokozumi – (SOH koh ZOO mee) Black that is faintly visible

Sumi – (SOO mee) Black marking

Tategoi – (TAH teh goy) A koi that possess potential for the future

Tateshita – (TAH teh shee tah) Young koi that has finished developing and has no potential for improvement. the opposite of Tategoi

Tebire – (teh BEE reh) Pectoral fin

Tejima – (teh GEE mah) Sumi stripes in the fins

Tosai – (TOH sye) A koi in its first year – up to one year old

Tsuya – (TSOO yah) Luster

Wagoi – (WAH goy) Scaled koi

Yogyo – (YOHG yoh) Young fish

Yonsai – (YAHN sye) A koi in its fourth year, up to four years old