While the number of overseas nishikigoi enthusiasts is growing rapidly, there are concerns that demand for, and recognition of, this unique fish within Japan is declining. There are calls for the nishikigoi to be made Japan’s national fish to rekindle interest in the species.
While Prime Minister, Tanaka Kakuei played an important role in promoting the nishikigoi, both in Japan and around the world. It is a well-known fact that the pond at Tanaka’s Mejiro estate in Tokyo contained 200 of the fish, which were first developed in the mountains of his native Niigata Prefecture. Tanaka similarly stocked a pond that was created during his time in office in the grounds of Akasaka Palace, Japan’s state guest house. He also gifted the colorful carp to visiting foreign dignitaries and aristocrats to emphasize the nishikigoi’s status as Japan’s national fish. These efforts contributed to the strength of nishikigoi exports today.
Tanaka Kakuei feeding nishikigoi at his home following his election as head of the Liberal Democratic Party in July 1972. (© Jiji)
Two days after Niigata’s annual Koi Show in November 2020, the largest such event in the world, I visited another show organized by former employees of the award-winning Dainichi Koi Farm who have gone on to set up their own aquaculture businesses…