When you mention koi to most people, the first image that usually comes to mind is a red and white koi, or a Kohaku. The Kohaku is the quintessential koi and one of the ‘Big Three’ koi varieties (Kohaku, Sanke & Showa). It has combination of deep red patches that form a pleasing pattern over a pure white body. A high quality Kohaku is truly stunning when fully grown.
One of the earliest koi varieties to be bred, the Kohaku has always been the most popular variety of koi with koi breeders and collectors in Japan, and around the world today. If you are ever lucky enough to attend a koi show in Japan, most of the fish entered in the competition would be Kohaku. Although there are koi varieties with more colours and more intricate patterns, the simplicity of the red and white pattern of the Kohaku continues to call to koi enthusiasts.
Kohaku are white koi with red markings. We refer to the placement of these markings on the body as a pattern. It can’t be stressed enough that the white (shiro) should be pure bright white and also free from blemishes. Ideally , the red markings (hi) should be deep in colour and uniform shade with the edges of the pattern well defined. As a general guide, the red markings should cover about half of the body and should be well balanced throughout the body. The red pattern may be distributed in many different ways.
Below you can see some of the more common Kohaku patterns that are produced by breeders.
This Inazuma kohaku has a single, continuous red pattern resembling the shape of a lightning strike running from head to tail
This Nidan (2-step) Kohaku has 2 distinct steps. Notice the break in the red (hi) pattern near the back of the dorsal fin.
This Sadan (3-step) Kohaku has 3 distinct steps. Notice how the red (hi) pattern, is well balanced on the left and right as well as head to tail.
This Yondan (4-step) Kohaku has 4 distinct steps. Notice how the red (hi) pattern, is evenly spaced and well balanced from head to tail.
The Tancho Kohaku has only 1 distinct pattern on the head. The red (hi) pattern should be as close to a perfect circle as possible and be deep red.
The Gin-Rin Kohaku is basically any Kohaku but with gin-rin scales. Gin-rin scales have a reflective quality that add extra glitz to the koi.
Below you will see a video of some beautiful nisai (2 year old) Kohaku.
Below you will find the descriptions, terminology and phrases commonly used to describe Kohaku koi.
Aka – (AH kah) Red
Aka hana – (AH kah HAH nah) Red nose
Bozu – (boh ZOO) No hi on the head, bald head
Ginrin or Gin-Rin – (geen reen) Refers to sparkling scales
Godan kohaku – (GOH dahn koh HAH koo) a 5-step Kohaku pattern
Hachi – (HAH chee) Head
Hara – (hah RAH) Abdominal area
Hi – (HEE) A term for red
Inazuma – (EE nah ZOO mah) Lighting strike pattern
Ippon hi – (EE pohn HEE) A continuous red pattern from head to tail
Kohaku – (koh HAH koo) A koi with a white body and red markings
Kuchibeni – (KOO chee BEN eee) Red lips
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
Motoaka – (MOH toh AH kah) Red markings at the base of the pectoral fins
Nidan Kohaku – (nee DAHN koh HAH koo) A 2-step Kohaku
Odome – (oh DOH meh) Last marking before the tail
Ojime – (oh GEE meh) Gap between the last pattern marking and the tail
Sandan Kohaku– (SAHN dahn koh HAH koo) A 3-Step Kohaku
Shiro – (SHEE roh) White
Tancho – (TAHN choh) A koi with a single hi (red) spot on the head only
Yondan Kohaku – (YAHN dahn koh HAH koo) A 4-Step Kohaku