Taisho Sanke, commonly called Sanke, are basically a Kohaku with added black markings or sumi. In fact, they are closely related to Kohaku. Koi with black markings began to appear in the spawn of Kohaku in the early 1900’s. This inspired Eizburo Hoshino to cross one of these parent Kohaku with a Shiro Bekko (a white koi with black markings). The resulting fry showed great promise, as they had the typical Sanke colours in fairly equal proportions, and a new variety was created. However, it was Torakichi Kawikame who ‘fixed’ the strain (making it stable for breeding) and the resulting bloodline became known as the Torazo bloodline. All current sanke bloodlines have arisen from the Torazo or Sanba (now extinct) bloodlines.
Sanke were the first tricolour (white, red and black) koi variety to be developed. It is the second in the group of koi known as the ‘Big Three’ (Kohaku, Sanke & Showa) also known as Gosanke. They are white koi with large patterns of hi (red) and smaller sumi (black marking) evenly distributed on the body.
As with Kohaku, the white should be snow-white and lustrous, and the red markings (hi) should be deep in colour with the edges of the pattern well defined. The sumi should be deep black, though it usually appears as light blue or grey in young koi, before it fully develops. The sumi should also be distributed evenly throughout the body to provide a pleasing pattern. While sumi may develop on the hi (red) or on the white skin, Sanke with sumi on the white are highly sought after.
Sanke usually only have the sumi on the upper half of the body, they typically shouldn’t have any below the lateral line. This is one major feature that distinguishes Sanke from Showa, whose sumi are usually much larger and extend right down to the belly. Sanke often have some black stripes on the pectoral fins, but should not have motoguro – a block of black at the base of the pectoral fin.
Another characteristic that differentiates Sanke from Showa, is that Sanke do not usually have any sumi on the head. While classic Sanke will have only red over white on the head, quality Showa will always have a significant amount of black on the head.