An increasing number of wealthy buyers in Asia have shown an interest in nishikigoi (Japanese colored varieties of carp), pushing up the market for the luxury ornamental fish.
In October last year, a Chinese collector made a successful bid of ¥203 million in a nishikigoi auction held in Mihara, Hiroshima Prefecture, causing excitement among domestic and foreign buyers at the venue.
While the deal was an extreme case, it is not rare these days for champion nishikigoi in competitive shows to be purchased by rich foreign buyers for tens of millions of yen, industry sources say.
Breeding nishikigoi, a practice which originated in Niigata Prefecture, was once common in Japan. But rising land prices, especially in urban areas, have made it difficult to maintain ponds to keep the fish.
But interest in nishikigoi has been growing overseas. Japan’s nishikigoi exports more than tripled to ¥4.3 billion in 2018 from 15 years before.
Demand for nishikigoi is now surging in Asia, including in China, Hong Kong and Thailand, on top of existing demand in the United States and Europe.
“There are many Chinese people who buy nishikigoi in Japan and then entrust them to Japanese breeders,” said Hisashi Hirasawa, chief of the All Japan Nishikigoi Promotion Association, based in Ojiya, Niigata Prefecture.
Such Chinese-owned nishikigoi were champions in four of the last five annual nishikigoi shows held by the industry group.
The value of nishikigoi shipped overseas, along with those purchased by foreign owners and entrusted to domestic breeders, totals some ¥10 billion a year, according to Hirasawa.
Japanese breeders are wary of the growing business in China of breeding imported nishikigoi for sale. A rise in Chinese-bred nishikigoi “could affect Japanese exports,” Hirasawa said.