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905-715-2447 Winter Hours: By Appointment Only 3301 Sideroad 10, Bradford, ON Canada

Showa Sanshoku Koi

Showa Sanshuko Koi

The Last of the 'Big Three'

Showa Sanshuko, or more commonly referred to as Showa, have the same colours as Sanke, but in different proportions and the pattern placement is different. Showa are the last in the group of three koi collectively called Gosanke (Kohaku, Sanke & Showa). Although Showa and Sanke are similar, Showa are black koi, with red and white markings whereas Sanke are white koi with red and black markings. These 2 varieties are often confused by people new to the hobby. 

Showa were the last of the Gosanke varieties to be developed. Jukichi Hoshino crossed a Ki Utsuri with a Kohaku to produce the first Showa, however, apparently the hi (red) and sumi (black) were of poor quality. It was not until 1965 that Tomiji Kobayashi improved the Showa by crossing female Showa with male male Sanke and Kohaku. The resulting offspring showed the vibrant red and deep black that we are accustomed to seeing today.   

Showa Japanese Koi

Showa Characteristics

Showa are one of the most sought after koi varieties, next to Kohaku. Because they have such a wide variety of patterns and variation in the proportion of their colours, they appeal to a wide range of hobbyist. 

The ‘typical’ look of a Showa has changed over the years to keep up with the changing tastes of hobbyist. Traditional Showa had red as the dominant colour, followed by strong bands of black sumi, and roughly an equal amount of white. Over the years, the amount of white on Showa has gradually increased, and some strains have more white than red. Today, Showa with white as the dominant colour are becoming very popular, they are referred to as Kindai Showa. 

Some hobbyist prefer less white, and of course, there are Showa to satisfy them as well. A Showa with red as the predominant colour (more than half of its body covered with hi) is called a Hi Showa. Some Hi Showa can be difficult to distinguish from a Hi Utsuri, because they may look very similar. As long as there is just a tiny bit of white somewhere on the body, it is technically a Showa.

Showa can be one of the most difficult varieties of koi to assess when purchasing a young fish. In most cases, the size and distribution of the sumi will change substantially as the koi ages. Sumi often only fully develop after the fish reaches 3 years of age, or even longer. Young Showa often only show signs of the sumi as shadowy blue-grey markings. These usually grow in size and darken as the fish matures, producing the pleasing Showa sumi. 

Like Sanke, Showa often have black on their pectoral fins. In fact, a good Showa should have Motoguro (black at the base of both fins) as well as some stripes radiating out into the fins as well. 


Common Showa Patterns

Below you can see some of the more common variations in the patterns of Showa.

Hi Showa

This Hi Showa could be confused for a Hi Utsuri, however, the small bit of white near the base of the tail confirms that this is a Showa 

Hi Showa Koi

Kindai Showa

Kindai Showa like the one below are becoming more popular. It has white as the dominant colour, while the hi and sumi are proportionally less

Kindai Showa

Doitsu Showa

This beautiful Doitsu Showa has a more traditional pattern, where the hi and sumi are more prevalent than the white areas

Tancho Showa

This Tancho Showa, has the hi confined only on the head. The sumi forms a typical pattern and is very well balanced throughout the body

Tancho Showa Koi

Gin-Rin Showa

This Gin-Rin Showa not only has a beatiful pattern, but it is embellished by reflective scales, making it a truly stunning fish

Gin-Rin Showa Koi


Another beautiful Showa with an outstanding pattern. Notice the unique circular hi on the head over the white and surrounded by sumi

The video below shows some nice examples of Traditional Showa, Hi Showa, and Kindai Showa


Showa Terminology

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

Aka – (AH kah) Red

Aka Sanke (AH kah SAHN keh) A sanke with large areas of hi (red) without breaks in the pattern 

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 

Hachi  – (HAH chee) Head

Hara – (hah RAH) Abdominal area

Hi – (HEE) A term for red

Hi Utsuri – (HEE oot SOO ree)  A black koi with red markings

Hi Showa – (HEE SHOH wah) A Showa with hi (red) as the predominant colour

Kindai Showa – (kin DEYE SHOH wah) A Showa with shiro (white) as the predominant colour

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

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

Nezu – (NEH zoo) Light Grey

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

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

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

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

Shiro – (SHEE roh) White

Sumi – (SOO mee) Black

Tancho showa – (TAHN SHOH wah) A showa with a single hi (red) spot on the head and typical sumin the body

Tsubo sumi – (TSOO boh SOO mee) Black pattern (sumi) over white skin

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

Back to our Koi Varieties Guide