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General Description

'Kohaku' is the term applied to a koi that has a white body with red markings. Kohaku is the first koi breed to be established by the Japanese, with breed stability being achieved in the 1890's.

Appreciation Criteria


The shiro (white) base color of the body must be unblemished, thick, snowy, and even milky. The shiro must not exhibit any yellowish tint.

The hi (red) markings on the white body must be solid, deep, and evenly-colored throughout the entire body. The edges of these markings (also known as the 'kiwa') must be very defined, or as they say, 'sharp as a razor.'

The hi color may vary from koi to koi, but it should be of uniform hue within an individual koi.  Different koi exhibit different hues, from a deep persimmon orange to dark, purplish red.  This entire range is acceptable, although judges invariably have their own preferences.   


The red markings on the body must be artistically balanced.  This means that they must not be confined to one side or one end of the koi only.  An equal distribution of shiro and hi is preferred, so in general a koi heavily marked with red or predominantly white in color is not desired. Red spots below the lateral line are not desired, and so are red marks that extend into the tail or the dorsal fin.

The pattern may be continuous or 'stepped', but the over-all effect of white and red balancing each other should be the ultimate consideration.  Many people prefer stepped koi and understandably so, since this pattern ensures red and white alternating with each other.  Nonetheless, there have been single-stepped (also known as 'ohmoyo') koi that have won championships for their 'total package' elegance.  

A white area separating the tail and the red marking nearest the tail is known as a tail stop, and is considered desirable. A red mark on the lips of a koi (also known as 'kuchibeni') is a 'plus' if it enhances the over-all package of the koi.

A good kohaku has a pattern on the head. The head pattern must extend slightly beyond the eyes but should not reach the nose or lips, leaving a white area in the front end of the head.  A fully red head (referred to as 'menkaburi') that makes the koi look 'hooded' is considered negative.  Nonetheless, some koi look good despite having it, so don't let it prevent you from buying a koi that you like.

A round patch of red on the head is considered nice.  If this red patch is the only marking on a white koi, then the koi is called a 'tancho kohaku', a highly-prized koi variety among the Japanese since it looks like their national bird.  If there are other markings on the body of the koi, then the round head patch makes it a 'maruten' kohaku.


Please see separate article on The Ideal Koi Body.







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