Is Koi the National Fish of Japan?

Is Koi the National Fish of Japan?

Japan is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, which is deeply intertwined with nature. Among the various symbols that represent Japanese culture, the koi fish holds a special place. But is the koi fish the national fish of Japan? Let’s delve into this topic and explore its significance.

The Legend of the Koi Fish in Japan

The koi fish, scientifically known as Cyprinus rubrofuscus, has a long history in Japanese folklore. According to legend, a school of koi swam upstream in the Yellow River against all odds, overcoming powerful currents and numerous obstacles. Eventually, one koi successfully reached the top of a waterfall known as Dragon Gate. As a reward for its determination and perseverance, the koi transformed into a magnificent dragon.

This tale symbolizes strength, courage, and resilience – qualities that resonate deeply with Japanese culture. It is said that these qualities are reflected in the national character as well.

Koi Fish Symbolism in Japanese Culture

Koi fish have become an integral part of Japanese art, literature, and tradition. They are often associated with good fortune and prosperity. In fact, during special occasions like weddings and festivals, elaborate koinobori (carp-shaped windsocks) are flown to celebrate these blessings.

The vibrant colors exhibited by koi also hold specific meanings. For instance:

  • Kohaku: A white-bodied koi with red markings symbolizes love and relationships.
  • Ogon: A metallic-colored koi represents success and wealth.
  • Bekko: A koi with a white body and black markings symbolizes perseverance.

Is Koi the National Fish of Japan?

While the koi fish is undoubtedly an iconic symbol in Japan, it is not officially recognized as the national fish. In fact, Japan does not have an official national fish. However, the koi’s cultural significance and its representation in various forms of Japanese art make it one of the most recognized and beloved symbols in the country.


The koi fish holds a special place in Japanese culture due to its symbolism and mesmerizing beauty. While it may not be the national fish of Japan, its portrayal in art, folklore, and tradition has cemented its status as an enduring symbol of strength, resilience, and good fortune.

Photo of author

Michael Allen