The Loulan Story

There have been millions of Koi bred since the first strangely coloured carp was discovered in the mountains of Niigata in northern Japan two centuries ago, but during the Summer of 1976 one very special Koi was about to hatch from a very special spawning.

This spawning occurred at Ogawa Koi Farm based in Sasebo on Kyushu Island at the southern most tip of Japan and was to be a defining moment in the history of Koi. One of the small Koi hatched from the many thousands of eggs spawned that day, was a tiny Kohaku that was to become the most famous Koi ever produced. To continue the story of this Koi we must go back to the very beginning.

Ogawa Farm was founded by Heikichi Ogawa and from the very beginning he and his brother Yukichi Ogawa had concentrated on one particular aspect of their koi and that was their desire to only produce Koi with stunning snow white skin. The whiteness of the skin was the one defining factor that they felt made a koi truly special and their aim was to produce a Koi with skin as beautiful as the white porcelain (Kakiemon) that the region around Sasebo was famous for. Heikichi Ogawa wanted to breed a Koi with truly white skin that could win the All Japan Koi Show and this was to be his long life ambition.

Ogawa Koi Farm started their breeding process by using Ohshita Koi of Tomoin bloodline and by extremely selective breeding for successive years they had been very successful in producing Koi with the super white skin that they desired. Due to their obsession with whiteness, they always selected their koi with this feature in mind, it was white or nothing! This quest caused Ogawa Koi to be instantly recognisable, not only from their white skin, but also from their unusual patterns. These strikingly different patterns had come about as a direct result of the obsession with white skin. The Oyagoi (broodstock) that Ogawa was using by 1976 had become very different compared with other farm s at the time; the parent koi had very little, if any resemblance of a traditional pattern and were being used purely for their whiteness. Therefore their offspring were unlike any other Koi being produced anywhere in Japan and it was from these Oyagoi that a special Koi was to be spawned.

That special Koi was a tiny Kohaku with outstanding white skin (obviously that goes without saying!) and a unique pattern that simply gleamed. From the Kois first days Heikichi Ogawa had great hopes for the future of this Koi, he felt this could be ‘the one’. When the koi reached 3 years old she was absolutely beautiful and was sold for the first time, not because Heikichi Ogawa had given up on the Koi, but every Koi has its price. However the koi was purchased by one of Ogawa koi Farms best customers and they were still very much in control of its future.

By the mid Eighties the Koi had changed hands again and was purchased by Mr Imanishi. Whilst the koi was in his ownership the major headlines in the Far East at the time were being made by a group of archaeologists excavating in the lost city of Loulan on the famous the Silk Road in China. They had unearthed a quite remarkable mummified body. The mummy was clearly, despite being entombed for thousands of years, that of a very beautiful woman and was dubbed the Loulan Beauty. Mr Imanishi who was an old and romantic decided to name his beautiful Ogawa Kohaku after the mysterious woman from Chinas ancient lost city. From that day on the Koi was to be known as Loulan.

While Loulan was under the ownership of Mr Imanishi, Heikichi Ogawa still had confidence in Loulans future; however Loulan had captivated another of Ogawa Koi Farms regular customers, Mr Hashimoto. He had fallen in love with the Koi and after protracted negotiations eventually became Loulans third owner.

Up until Mr Hashimotos ownership Loulan rather amazingly had never been near a Koi show, but this is not as remarkable as it seems. Similarly many of the world’s greatest oil paintings are owned by art collectors for their own personal enjoyment and Loulan had spent her time swimming around the mud ponds of Ogawa Koi Farm purely for the enjoyment of her owners. Even though Loulans previous owners had not had any thoughts of showing her, Heikichi Ogawa’s mind was still very much on her winning the All Japan Koi Show. He was not interested in anything other than the Grand Champion Prize, so until she was in a position to win this he would continue to grow and develop the Koi with just this goal in mind.

Finally in 1989, after thirteen years of slow but ever improving development Mr Hashimoto and Heikichi Ogawa decided it was time to launch Loulan onto the national stage and enter her in Japans second largest Koi show, the ZNA all Japan Koi Show. Heikichi Ogawa was extremely nervous as he had invested much of his life in this Koi and hoped that Loulans distinctiveness would be finally be accepted by the judges. His worries were not with the quality of Loulan, this was never an issue, he was just concerned that the judges would not be able to accept Loulans unique pattern, regardless of her qualities, over the more traditional styles of Koi that were still popular at the time.

Heikichi Ogawa’s worries were to be correct as Loulan failed to win the Grand Champion prize. His disappointment was immense, after striving for so many years he had put huge amounts of pressure on himself to win; he found falling at the first hurdle very hard to deal with. However, he took a little comfort in the fact that she was easily the most popular koi at the show. The weeks following the show, all the talk amongst Japans koi fraternity was centered around Loulan and she actually created more headlines than the grand Champion itself. This spurred Heikichi Ogawa and Mr Hashimoto on to take further action, Heikichis dream was still there to be achieved and would not be allowed to die. Due to the nationwide acclaim that Loulan was receiving from Japans Shinkokai, the true koi men who make up the members of the Japanese Koi breeders and dealers association, it was decided that Loulan would contest the 22nd All Japan Koi Show of 1990.

The Shinkokai organized All Japan Koi Show is the biggest and best Koi show in Japan and therefore the world, winning this competition is the pinnacle for all Koi breeders. Loulan was now 14 years old, with a length of 82cm, stunning snow white skin and deep crimson red, her time had come.

Loulan won the 22nd All Japan Koi Show with ease and Ogawa Koi farms place in history had been assured. The victory party could now get underway, but tragically the celebrations for the Ogawa family lasted a mere 24 hours, the day after the fulfillment of his life’s ambition Heikichi Ogawa sadly passed away.

Two years then followed before Ogawa Koi Farm was ready to enter Heikichi s Loulan into another show. In 1992 Yukichi Ogawa decided to try and cement the his brothers and the Ogawa families name in Koi folklore by entering Loulan in the 24th All Japan Koi Show, with the aim of winning the Grand Champion prize for an unprecedented second time.

At the age of sixteen, when most Koi are many years past their best, Loulan now measuring 86cm and still captivating all those that saw her, triumphed again.
She became the first koi ever to win the coveted title twice.
In the history of the All Japan Show, dating back to its inception in 1968, no Koi has ever achieved this feat or done so since.

Loulan continued to captivate all those who saw her for the years after her second win and retained all her stunning qualities right up until her death in the late nineties. Pictures of Loulan are still used to this day in many Koi publications the world over and in a recent poll conducted by Rinko Magazine, Japans number one koi publication, Loulan was voted the best Kohaku of all time, with her truly white as snow skin and stunning deep red, she had become Japans favourite Koi.

Not only had Heikichi Ogawa bred the most beautiful Koi ever produced, he had also changed the way Koi are viewed and appreciated. Quality of skin was now recognised to be the real beauty of Koi.

Loulan

Loulan the most beautiful koi of all time.

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