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Colorful Past

August 14, 1992|DAVID COLKER

Koi expert Bertrelle Caswell says that research shows the hobby can be traced back as far as 500 to 600 BC in what was then Mesopotamia in the Middle East. The koi were eventually exported to China, via the Silk Route, and then in about 100 AD to Japan where farmers put them in rice paddies. Koi is a Japanese word for love.

The farmers encouraged colorful patterns in the fish through selective breeding, but it was still a mostly local phenomenon. Then in the 1920s farmers brought a few particularly spectacular koi to an agricultural show in Tokyo, and left behind six of them as a gift to the emperor's family.

Crown Prince Hirohito took an interest in the koi, placing them in moats around the royal residence. When he later became emperor, he gave koi as presents to people he favored.

Koi came to Hawaii and California with Japanese immigration in the 1960s and '70s, Caswell said.

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