In looking at the difference between Japanese and domestic koi, perhaps defining terms would be helpful. “Domestic” could accurately describe a Japanese or even Israeli koi if it refers to where the koi are. If they are in Japan then the Japanese would consider them domestic. But for the sake of ease, “domestic” in this sense will describe koi that are bred in the United States.
And so onto the difference. Most people will immediately point to price as the major separating factor. Japanese koi fetch a much higher price with some grand champions asking in the seven figure range.
Why? It could depend on many factors. Exchange rate, shipping plus export costs and fry yield as a result of more discerning standards amongst Japanese breeders can all play a part. But it is only part of the debate. Quality, perceived or otherwise, is usually at the root of the conversation.
Show judging standards (skin quality, body shape and color/pattern) are often used as the benchmark for quality. Much of the difference in quality comes down to the timespan and focused nature of the specialization.
To draw a rather large analogy, it is much like that between old world and new world wines. There is nothing wrong with the new world wines and many come from old world vines, but it is the history, pedigree and generational growing knowledge that connoisseurs appreciate and extol.
Japanese koi breeders in some instances have been producing koi for upwards of seven generations. Added to that, they generally focus on only a few types of koi. Additionally, the culling process is more rigorous with a very small number of koi making the exacting grade.
Genetics plays a part, too. Again, the extensive and lengthier background of the Japanese breeders has helped to strengthen the gene pool.
Some koi enthusiasts believe that domestic koi, outside of the Gosanke (Sanke, Showa and Kohaku), are now comparable to some of the other varieties coming from middle-of-the-road breeders in Japan.
There is some wisdom to the philosophy that honing your koi hobbyist skills on inexpensive fish that you find to be most appealing can help you enjoy the hobby first. Over time, you will then be able to discern and appreciate the differences as your pond’s stock grows—or as one ardent hobbyist muses, “buy the breed, not the breeder.”
And it is also good advice to determine where the fish are from. Yes, in a sense all koi are Japanese; but find out where they are from most recently.
At Next Day Koi, our goal is simple—to provide koi to fit our customers’ needs and budgets. Our koi come from two of the top suppliers in the industry and can be in your pond less than 48 hours after you place your order. Contact us today to see how quickly we can get your koi to you.