Some of the world’s greatest discoveries were discovered quite by accident. Penicillin, X-Rays, Teflon and even Post-It Notes were discovered by people who were preoccupied by unrelated areas of work. They have all since been developed and made available to rest of the world.
Looking back at the history of the birth of koi, we can justifiably say that the birth of koi has something in common with those other accidental discoveries. Key factors included being discovered by the right people, at the right time in the right place – and that place was Niigata, Japan.
The prefecture of Niigata offers some of the most picturesque landscapes in the Far East, with wide, flat valley bottoms rising steeply into breathtaking mountainous terrain.
Several hundred years ago, when rice cultivation dominated both the landscape and the local economy, carp were introduced from Asia as a means of supplementing the meagre diet of the Niigata rice farmers. The carp were stocked into the reservoirs that were used to fill the rice fields. In true carp-style, these precocious food fish spawned many millions of fry each year, most of which were restocked and grown on as food fish. Fortunately for us, these carp populations had hidden within them, rare and recessive genes that would later manifest themselves in a few fish, showing as lighter skin or scales that came about through of chance matings and genetic mutations.
Rather than culling these ornamental offspring to allow the stronger food fish to grow, the Niigata rice farmers positively selected for these colourful freaks of nature – these were the earliest ancestors of Niigata koi – the world’s most beautiful koi.
Over subsequent generations, the combination of the inquisitive Japanese culture and meticulous attention to detail has led to the creation of distinct varieties and bloodlines as the genes have continued to amaze and confound koi keepers across the world at each harvest.
Niigata has become synonymous with koi of the highest quality, and if the carp had carried different genes, or the rice farmers had taken a different approach with the first ornamental carp, then koi may not have existed as we know them today. But a series of factors all fell into place at a place called Niigata – the birthplace of koi and the source of the world’s most beautiful koi.
into place at a place called Niigata – the birthplace of koi and the source of the world’s most beautiful koi.