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Goshiki Development

Goshiki - World of Nishikigoi - Robing
This goshiki attracted quite a bit of attention at the 2021 BKKS National and I thought it worth a closer look...
Goshiki - World of Nishikigoi - Robing

Purchased from Select Nishikigoi as a 26cm tosai in November 2017 (see above), Robin Whittle finally rolled the dice on this Kase goshiki after it had been stuck at the shop for several months, receiving very little attention. This wasn't exactly 'love at first sight' and Rob says he only started to get excited by the koi when he bowled her in August 2018. Here is a shot from that very day, when the koi had just turned nisai...

Goshiki - World of Nishikigoi - Robing

Even in this blurry shot, the quality of the beni shines; rich, consistent and untouched by any ingress of her pleasant robing. Robing is what distinguishes any variety in the Koromo class (most commonly ai-goromo, budo-goromo and goshiki). Nowadays, there are various styles of robing,* but essentially it's a darker colour that surfaces, accentuating each scale. When the beni (red) is untouched by this, it's often referred to as “floating beni,” a highly prized attribute of this variety.


No wonder Rob was happy!

* Some examples of different robing styles

Goshiki - World of Nishikigoi - Robing

At 23 months old (46cm) she was shown at the 2019 AEYKS. Winning the SAKKS Friendship Award and a 1st in Size/Class, this shot was given to Rob by the late Mark Gardner...


(Note how the beni has remained clean and the body colour has now darkened, leaning towards 'kuro goshiki.’ This isn't another variety, it simply describes a goshiki when the base colour is dark/black)


Not to sound cynical, but goshiki don’t have a great reputation for being ‘forgiving’ to koi keepers. Most would assume that she's now peaked at nisai and come sansai she'll become even darker and start taking a dramatic tumble downhill…


Unfortunately Rob forgot to picture her at sansai

- so we'll never know!

Goshiki - World of Nishikigoi - Robing
Goshiki - World of Nishikigoi - Robing

However if she did tumble, she made a comeback like Muhammad Ali after his first fight with Frazier! Here she is at The National Koi Show in August 2021 measuring 65cm (yonsai).

She swam away with “Best in Class“ (koromo)…


This goshiki struck me as being a little unusual in style and after speaking to Rob he said that she also doesn't play by the normal development rules, she's a bit weird. This sparked my intrigue…


The base colour of goshiki can vary greatly in colour and shade, the most common are bluey/grey (nezu), black/almost black (kuro) and one that is rarely seen even in Japan, the white (mameshibori). See below...

Goshiki - World of Nishikigoi - Robing

There are however, examples where the colour is split (often by the lateral line) creating two base colours, this usually consists of a white/lighter belly and a darker top. It's considered that goshiki with lighter bellies have good potential for the beni to stay free of robing...


The ‘robing’ on goshiki is very important and therefore by default, so is the scale formation (scalation). This wants to be uniform because any defects in scale alignment will only become more obvious as the koi grows and the robing develops. Traditionally robing would be present on both the beni and the base colour of goshiki, it's only modern tastes that lean towards beni that is robing-free (floating beni). The truth is that most goshiki will end up developing robing on the beni and when it does appear, it too must be in an attractive and uniform manner. Not an easy find!



What do the Judges think?

I spoke to Bernie Woollands to see if there was a favourite in terms of base colour, there isn't, which is good to know! He explained that after the usual Body, Skin and Pattern are played for, it's the robing that seals the deal. He went on to say that every base colour faces it's own challenges in regards to how the robing is either complimented or hindered - so essentially, each has an equal chance.


As we saw earlier, there are also different styles of robing depending on what's in the 'blood-mix,' so I was curious to know if a particular style of robing had an advantage... Speaking to Allan Tait, he confirmed that all styles of robing

are equal, as importantly, they're all still goshiki! It's the quality of the robing that's important, not the style.


Back to Base...

The complication to goshiki is that the base colour and robing fluctuate and change! Often dictated by temperature and water conditions (hardeness), more often than not, cooler temps and harder water see colours darken, whilst higher temps and softer water see them lighten and in some cases recede entirely. Note: hard water is not a necessity to see the development of the base colour and robing. Much like quality sumi, if it wants to come - it will come.


Typically, the darker the base colour gets, the higher the chance it will disrupt the beni plates. Something we don’t want. Close attention must therefore be paid to the movement of the base colour in order to learn the characteristics of developing goshiki. This could give valuable clues as to when is best to show the koi in question and indeed indicate towards it's longevity...

Goshiki - World of Nishikigoi - Robing

The most standard progression for the kind of goshiki seen in the UK is that they get darker with age, usually to the point where the beni buckles. So picking a dark and perfect looking tosai as a good future prospect - is probably a recipe for disaster. 


Although, perfect looking tosai in any variety often offer the same fate! 



This Goshiki…

This goshiki however, hasn't darkened with age and nor does it react to seasonal changes or water conditions, according to Rob's experiences thus far. This is something that Rob had no way of predicting and indeed offers a wonderful element of intrigue and excitement in regards to the future of this koi...


This goshiki, does her own thing. 

Goshiki - World of Nishikigoi - Robing

Looking at the picture above you can see that she started lighter (common), went darker as nisai (also common) - however, she did this whilst in warm growing waters (not common!?). Come yonsai she has lightened up considerably. All this happened without any other interim, seasonal fluctuations, which in itself is very unusual. How on earth do you predict the movement of a koi like this?

With a great deal of difficulty!



The more I looked into this koi, the more I was interested. I'm not by any means well versed in the variety, having never owned one and I always avoided buying them when I worked in retail. But this koi forced me to do some research, which is never a bad thing.


My initial gut feeling was that there was some soragoi in her blood. Looking at her as nisai or yonsai, if you lift the beni plates, there's definitely a sort-of-soragoi present. Her robing is also in the style of what we'd see on a soragoi. Could the soragoi blood be stopping/prolonging the darkening of the base colour and in the long run protecting the quality of the beni?


Lost in the watery depths of this post (which at one point I wish I'd never started!) I once again prodded Allan Tait. He too suspected a soragoi in the mix, saying this possibly explains why the koi doesn't see any of the usual 'goshiki fluctuations.' He also predicts that the beni will stay free from future robing. Time will tell...

Goshiki - World of Nishikigoi - Robing

I've never been a huge fan of goshiki. As a variety that seem to command such a premium, I've always written them off as an expensive and risky prospect due to the fact that there's such little, reliable information available - plus most of them rapidly turn into lizards! 


I think selecting a Tosai or indeed a Nisai with a serious future is more luck than equation and I reckon good ones often surprise the breeders as much as anyone else. There’s no doubt that goshiki are an incredibly temperamental and challenging variety to read and raise. Looking back at this as a 26cm tosai, would I have predicted the outcome? Absolutely not! Would I have purchased it? 


You bet your nana's pension I wouldn't have! 


But Rob Whittle did and he made a jolly nice koi of her too! Well done Rob! 



Let's see where she goes next...



*thanks to Judges, Bernie Woollands and Allan Tait for their input, Mike Hughes (Queni Koi) for the superb goshiki examples and Rob Whittle for allowing me to feature his koi and putting up with my endless nattering! 

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