Japanese Koi carp are known throughout the world as beautiful fish comprising of vivid colors and markings. Anyone who owns them can tell you how wonderful it is to have them as part of their lives. But there as is mysterious past surrounding these marvelous fish as to where their journey of time and transformation truly began. Over the centuries Koi have gone through many remarkable stages of migration, evolution and breeding. Still today, historical gaps in their timeline have many toiling over where they originated and how they truly came to be the revered Koi that grace the ponds of so many gardens the world over.
The word Koi is a Japanese name meaning carp, but the original name comes from the Latin word Cyprinus Carpio also meaning carp. Though many believe that Koi are a product of the Japanese, it is understood that Japanese Koi carp are actually believed to have originated in the waters of the Caspian Sea and areas surrounding China. In fact, there are records of carp fossils found in China dating back 20 million years, along with early accounts of the very first color mutations of Koi being bred in China. It was here where selective breeding of the Prussian carp led to the development of the goldfish. Now goldfish were not introduced to Japan until the 16th century. Later goldfish were brought to Europe in the 17th century.
With ongoing research and investigation, it is still unclear as to when Koi were actually introduced to Japan, but the mystery mounts as stories are told of Koi having been brought to Japan as a result of early Chinese invasions of Japan. Others tell stories of a Japanese emperor keeping Koi back in 200 AD. The history of Japanese Koi carp is sketchy at best. As to what really happed between the 2nd and the 17th century is an ongoing exploration still today.
What is understood is that Ojiya agricultural farmers in the province of Niigata were simply breeding Koi as a food source for sale. Then between the 1820s and the 1840s these farmers began to notice colorful pigmentation irregularities in some Koi stock. These particular Koi were separated from the others and kept as pets. Soon to follow, the farmers began breeding these color mutations with neighboring farmers and the Japanese Koi carp hobby began. Still it was a hobby shared only by the local farmers of Ojiya. It was not until the early 1920s, during the Tokyo Taisho Exhibition, that these farmers shared their newfound Koi joy with the rest of the Japanese public. These first presentations of Koi, with their vibrant majestic colors and patterns, were an immediate hit among the Japanese population. Over night, the Koi hobby went from a working mans leisurely past time to an upper class means of status. Before long Koi owners were breeding their fish throughout the country, and new exciting color mutations began to emerge, giving us largely what we see today in the magnificent Japanese Koi carp.