Koi fish are a popular Japanese carp that is often seen in water gardens. The name koi originated from the Japanese word “nishikigoi” which is literally translated as brocaded (adorned or decorated) carp. Because of the variety of colors manifested on these popular fish, it is usually kept for decorative purposes. Koi images can also be seen on many works of art that in Ancient China, where these were first developed, Tang poet Lu Gumieng included these colorful creatures in their literary works.
Color Variations of Koi
Over the years, hybridizations of the Japanese Koi are continuously being developed. There has been a growing popularity of the hobby of keeping koi all over the world. The basic colors that can be seen among these fishes are hi (red), shiroji (white), and sumi (black). Although a wide assortment of colors can also be seen, depending on the type of koi fish.
Some of the most popular koi types are Gosanke, which is a collective term used for kohaku, sanke (or sanshoku), and showa; Bekko, a Japanese term for ‘tortoise shell’ is another collective term for Shiro Bekko (white-skinned), Aka Bekko (red-skinned), and Ki Bekko (yellow-skinned). Another koi that can be commonly seen is the GinRin (or KinGinRin), which means gold and silver scales. Their metallic scales are quite unique and should not be confused with the metallic skin and sparkling scales of the Ogon.
Koi Fish in Japanese Culture
Although the origin of the word ‘koi’ in Japan simply means “carp”, it is also a homophone for another word in the Japanese language that means love or affection. Koi images are often considered to be a symbol of love and friendship.
In the Japanese culture, there is a story of the passage of a koi swimming upstream in the Yellow River. The legend tells that if it can pass through the most difficult part of the river called the Dragon’s gate, the koi fish will turn into a dragon. It is in this story, which shows the persistency of koi to swim against the flow of the river that made this fish to be a representation of strong-will and determination.
Koi Fish in Body Art
The image of a koi fish swimming upstream is a popular choice of art for many people who have tattoos. Seen on different body parts like arms, calves, side area, or chest – koi fish have definitely become the tattoo of choice for many. Regardless of whether one is a novice in Japanese culture and tradition, the colorful representation of these brocaded carps can be seen as custom pieces of work by many tattoo artists. For many people, tattoo enthusiasts or not, it is believed that acquiring a tattoo of a koi fish is said to provide good luck. Some even consider that having this Japanese carp tattooed on their body would give them the power and strength that the koi fish symbolizes.
For many koi hobbyists, whether their interests are directed towards collecting and keeping the fish or decorating your body with their colorful images, the most important element is that these wonderful creatures provide inspiration. The symbolism of love, friendship, courage, and strength will always be reflected on the image of a koi fish.