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Jim Phillips explains the finer points of Asagi.

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ZNA Local Certified Judge

The South African Koi Keepers Society (SAKKS) is a chapter of the Zen Nippon Airinkai (ZNA) which is a friendship society for amateur koi keepers. The ZNA is based in Japan but is an international society, having affiliate chapters world wide. Every year the ZNA announce the name of a type of koi that they wish to highlight and promote. This year, however, they have not done so, but SAKKS has decided to announce its own special variety. The SAKKS special variety is Asagi. At all SAKKS shows in 2010 there will be a special prize for the best Asagi.

Asagi were one of the first types of koi to be bred from wild carp. Records suggest they have been around for about 150 years. Asagi have blue scales and red markings. Their blue colour can vary from very pale (narumi) to dark (konjo). Each scale should be visible due to a vignette or reticulated pattern which is usually due to the centre of the scale being darker than its edge. The red pattern occurs along the sides of the body and ideally should be symmetrical.

Asagi-3-Young

When choosing a young Asagi there are a few general guidelines. A clean light head is essential as there is a tendency for the head to darken or develop dark spots with age. The blue scales should not be too dark in a young Asagi as the central area of the scale can become darker as the koi grows. An unusual feature of Asagi is that its red, known as fiery hi, increases with age, so just a small amount of red is fine on a young koi.

Asagi-1

At shows, Asagi are usually judged alongside their doitsu counterparts – Shusui. Shusui have a single zip-like line of dark blue scales running along their backs. When judging Asagi, like all koi, a good body shape is important. A clean head is appreciated along with neat, even scales that are reticulated. Each individual scale should be clearly defined and not blurred. Although the shade of blue varies within the variety on an individual koi the hue should be even throughout. The red pattern should be symmetrical and present on the sides of the body. Red may be present on the cheeks and in the pectoral fins. When present in the base of the pectoral fins the red is referred to as motoaka. Ideally, the red should not be overwhelming and rise up on to the back or the head.

Asagi-2-overwhelming-red

Asagi are the most direct descendants of wild carp and in the early days of koi development were used to help create other varieties. Possibly, due to this close relationship to wild carp they can be difficult to tame and tend to be your most difficult customers when it comes to catching them with a net. On the plus side, they are thought to be hardier and longer lived than other modern varieties.