is the term applied to a koi that has a
The black markings are in the form of spots that are generally
confined to the body above the lateral line. Sanke as a koi breed was established around 1917.
criteria for appreciating or judging a Sanke is the same as
those of a
Kohaku, with the addition of criteria for its
black markings. In fact, it is said that a good
Sanke is actually a good Kohaku that has been further enhanced by
black spots that add elegance to the totality of the koi.
shiro (white) base color of the body must be unblemished,
thick, snowy, and even milky. The shiro must not exhibit any
(red) markings on the
white body must be solid, deep, and evenly-colored throughout
the entire body. The edges of these markings (also known as
the 'kiwa') must be very defined, or as they say, 'sharp as a
The hi color may vary from koi to koi, but it should be of
uniform hue within an individual koi.
Different koi exhibit different hues, from a deep persimmon
orange to dark, purplish red. This entire range is
acceptable, although judges invariably have their own
markings of a Sanke must be deep, solid, and shiny lacquer-black. The shape of
every sumi spot must be clearly defined, with its kiwa or
edges as sharp as possible. Undeveloped sumi (also known
as 'sashi') may appear
mottled dark blue or gray instead of solid black. This
is not bad for a young koi, since sumi actually develops as
the koi grows older. In fact, spotting a potential
a young age involves good anticipation of how well the sumi
will develop in the next few years.
The red and black markings on the white body must be artistically
This means that a certain color must not be confined to one side or one
end of the koi only.
The red-over-white pattern may be continuous or 'stepped', but the over-all
effect of white and red balancing each other should be the
ultimate consideration. Many people prefer stepped koi and understandably so, since this pattern ensures red and white
alternating with each other. Sanke with a 'hi' pattern that
runs continuously from head to tail is known as
Aka sanke is less desired, since the predominantly red body
makes it look heavy.
white area separating the tail and the red marking nearest the
tail is known as a tail stop, and is considered desirable. A
red mark on the lips of a koi (also known as
'kuchibeni') is a
'plus' if it enhances the over-all package of the koi.
good sanke has a red pattern (but absolutely no black color) on the head. The head pattern must
extend slightly beyond the eyes but should not reach the nose
or lips, leaving a white area in the front end of the head.
A fully red head (referred to as
'menkaburi') that makes the
koi look 'hooded' is considered negative. Nonetheless,
some koi look good despite having it, so don't let it prevent
you from buying a koi that you like.
round patch of red on the head is considered nice. If
this red patch is the only red marking on the sanke, then the
koi is called a
a highly-prized koi variety among the Japanese since it looks
like their national bird. If there are other red
markings on the body of the koi, then the round head patch
makes it a
The sumi of a sanke must be distributed in the koi body such
that they collectively add balance to the koi. Their
presence should enhance the 'kohaku pattern' and not degrade
it. Old-style sanke koi are heavily endowed with sumi.
Modern sanke exhibit a sparser distribution of sumi, but these
should be clearly defined and solid black nonetheless.
Koi experts also prefer sumi spots that are positioned over
the white body. Conversely, sumi spots over hi markings are
less desirable to them.
Please see separate article on
The Ideal Koi Body.