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Koi Carp Glossary of Japanese Terms

Do you know your Tancho from your Maruten? Your Kumonryu from your Kikokuryu? These and many other Japanese terms are often confused when talking about koi.

For many new koi keepers and experienced koi keepers alike, the sheer number of Japanese terms used can be very overwhelming. For most people, the longer you are in the hobby, the more terms you are familiar with but even the most experienced koi keepers slip up sometimes!

At Keruto Koi, we are more than happy to show you all our different varieties or help you with the terminology, but to help you browse our website and blogs, we have compiled a list of common Japanese terms used in the koi hobby below. This list is not exhaustive but it more than covers the basics and can help expand the vocabulary of any koi keeper, new or experienced!

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z


Aka (AH-kah) - Red colouration. Only used to describe a single continuous block of red covering most of the fish, e.g., Aka Matsuba koi.

Aka Matsuba (AH-kah maht-SOO-bah) - A red koi with black reticulation in the scales.

Aka Sanke (AH-kah SAHN-keh) - A Sanke koi with a large majority of red colouration. Red covers most of the body.

Amime (ah-ME-meh) - Net-like reticulation pattern in the scales down the back of a koi. Similar to Fukurin but mostly used to refer to the pattern on Asagi and Goshiki koi.

Asagi (ah-SAH-gee) - A grey-blue koi with reticulation in the scales and red colouration along the sides of the fish, and the fins.


Bekko (BEH-koh) - A matte white, red or yellow koi with black patterns. Can also refer to black colouration on top of a yellow, red or white base.

Beni (ben-EE) - Red colouration. Sometimes used interchangeably with Hi but usually refers to a more orange red. Can also be a prefix to indicate a subvariety i.e., Beni Kikokuryu

Benigoi (BEN-ee-goy) - A non-metallic red koi.


Cha (chah) - Brown colouration. Comes from the word 'Ocha' meaning 'tea' and referring to the colour of a cup of tea.

Chagoi (CHAH-goy) - Non-metallic light brown koi. Similar colour to a wild carp.


Doitsu (DOYT-zoo) - German scaleless koi. Usually has a single line of scales along each side and the dorsal fin.


Fukurin (FOO-koo-REEN) - Net-like reticulation pattern in the scales down the back of a koi. Similar to Amime but mostly used to refer to the pattern on  Ogon, Kohaku, Taisho Sanshoku and Showa Sanshoku koi, as well as single-coloured koi such as Chagoi and Matsuba koi.


Gin (geen) - Metallic silver colouration.

Ginga (GEEN-ah) - Scaled, metallic white koi with a shifting black pattern. Wagoi Kikokuryu. See also: Henka Sumi.

Ginrin (GEEN-leen) - Koi with silver or gold sparkling scales. Shortened from Kin-Gin-Rin.

Goi (GOY) - Carp.

Goshiki (GOSH-key) - The '5 Colours' koi. White koi with a black pattern and dark and light blue reticulation in the scales and a red pattern on top.

Gosanke (goh-SAHN-keh) - Group of 3 biggest koi varieties – Kohaku, Showa and Sanke.


Hariwake (HAH-ree-WAH-keh) - Subvariety of koi describing two coloured koi where one of the colours is platinum, or metallic white, and the other colour is a metallic colour, either yellow, orange, or red. Common Hariwake varieties include: Lemon Hariwake.

Henka Sumi (HENH-kar SOO-me) - Temporary pattern where each scale is always changing from a light phase, when it is white or light grey, to a dark phase, when it is black, and back again. See also: Ginga, Kikokuryu, Kumonryu, Matsukawabake.

Hi (he) - Red colouration. Sometimes used interchangeably with Beni but usually refers to a fiery red rather than an orange-red.

Hi Showa (HEE SHOW-wah) - Subvariety of Showa with mostly red and black with very little white colouration.

Hikari (hick-AR-EE) - A metallic koi.

Hikarimono (hick-AR-EE-mon-YO) - Competition category for metallic, single-coloured koi, e.g., Ogon.

Hikarimoyo (hick-AR-EE-moe-YO) - Competition category for metallic koi with more than one colour, e.g., Kujaku.


Inazuma (IN-a-ZOOM-a) - A lighting-shaped or zig-zig pattern on a koi. Usually references a Kohaku koi.


Karasu (kah-RAH-soo) - Pure black koi nicknamed the ‘Crow Koi’. Also refers to black colouration when black is the base colour.

Kanoko (CAN-oh-CO) - A dappled, fawn-like pattern in red colourations.

Kawarimono (kah-WAR-ree-MON-no) - Competition category for non-metallic koi that are not in their own category. More unique koi or newer varieties.

Ki (kee) - Yellow colouration.

Kikokuryu (KEE-koo-KUR-ree-YOO) - Metallic, doitsu, white koi with a black, shifting pattern. Metallic Kumonryu. See also: Henka Sumi.

Kin (keen) - Metallic gold colouration

Kin-Gin-Rin (keen-GEEN-leen) - see Ginrin.

Kindai Showa (KEEN-dye SHOW-wah) - Subvariety of Showa with mostly white colouration and equal black and red patterns.

Kiwa (KEE-wah) - The edge of a coloured marking or pattern.

Kohaku (koh-HAH-koo) - White koi with red markings. Part of the Gosanke trio.

Kujaku (KOO-jah-KOO) - Metallic koi with reticulated scales and a red or yellow pattern.

Kumonryu (COME-on-REE-yoo) - Doitsu, white koi with a shifting black pattern. See also: Henka Sumi.


Magoi (mah-GOY) - Black wild carp considered to be the ancestor of all koi.

Maruten (mah-ROO-ten) - A koi with a red crown as well as red on the body. Similar to Tancho but with extra red patterns on the body.

Matsubagoi (MAHT-soo-BAH-goy) - Subvariety single-coloured koi with a black net-like reticulation pattern. Often shortened to Matsuba. Common Matsuba varieties include: Aka Matsuba, Gin Matsuba, Ki Matsuba.

Matsukawabake (maht-SOO-kah-wah-BAHK-keh) - Scaled, non-metallic white koi with a shifting black pattern. Wagoi Kumonryu. See also: Henka Sumi.

Motoaka (MOH-toh-AH-kah) - Red colouration at the base of the fins, at the fin joints.

Motoguru (MOH-toh-GOO-roh) - Black colouration at the base of the fins, at the fin joints.



Nidan (NEE-dahn) - Two step pattern.

Nishikigoi (nee-SHEE-kee-GOY) - Meaning ‘Jewelled Carp’, abbreviated to ‘koi’.

Nisai (NEH-say) - A koi over a year old and under 2 years old.


Ogon (OH-gone) - A metallic single-coloured koi. ‘Ogon’ refers to a gold-coloured metallic koi but can also be used as a suffix of a koi name to mean metallic, e.g., Platinum Ogon, Yamabuki Ogon.


Pongoi (POHN-goy) - Good quality koi.


Sandan (SAHN-dahn) - Three step pattern

Sanke (SAHN-keh) - White koi with red and black markings. Part of the Gosanke trio.

Sansai (SAHN-sigh) - A koi between 2 and 3 years old.

Sanshoku (san-SHO-koo) - A three coloured koi such as Showa Sanshoku.

Shimi (SHIM-ee) - Small black dots or speckles up to the size of a single scale. Imperfection scoring badly at shows.

Shiro (SHEE-roh) - White colouration.

Shiroji (sheer-ROW-gee) - White colouration. Specifically refers to white as the base colour.

Showa (SHOW-wah) - Black koi with red and white markings. Shortened from Sanshoku Sanke. Part of the Gosanke trio.

Showa Sanshoku (SHOW-wah san-SHO-koo) - see Showa.

Shusui (SHOO-swee) - Blue, Doitsu koi with red markings on the sides of the body. Doitsu Asagi.

Soragoi (SORE-a-GOY) - A non-metallic, blue-grey koi.

Sumi (SOO-mee) - Black colouration.


Taisho Sanke (TYE-shoh SAHN-keh) - see Sanke.

Tancho (tan-CHOH) - Subvariety of koi with no red on the body except for a circle on the head, between the eyes. See also Tancho Spot.

Tancho Spot - A single circle or red on the head of a fish. See also: Tancho.

Tetsu Magoi (tet-SOO mah-GOY) - Dark variant of the wild Magoi. Ancestor of many darker varieties of koi.

Tosai (TOH-sye) - A koi up to a year old.


Utsurimono (oot-SOO-ree-MOH-noh) - Subvariety of koi with a black base colour with another, contrasting accent colour on top. Often shortened to Utsuri. Common Utsurimono varieties include Ki Utsuri, Shiro Utsuri and Hi Utsuri.



Yakko (YAH-cow) - Red colouration on the cheeks of a koi.

Yatsushiro (yah-TSOO-shee-roo) - Black koi with white head and fins.

Yondan (YOHN-dahn) - Four step pattern.

Yonsai (YOHN-sye) - A koi between 3 and 4 years old.

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