Art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2017


Saturday, November 30, 2013


As my study of top view ranchu continues, I have been looking into ranchu standards and qualities promoted by the Japan Ranchu Association. Now, I better understand what is priced and what is disregarded about the ranchu. I learned that the most important characteristic of a high quality ranchu, apart from its physical attributes, is how the ranchu swims and displays its dignity. The work of its tail and the balance and strength with which the fish is propelled forward are outmost important signs of a well bred and groomed ranchu.

I have looked through many breeders, both here in the USA, as well as in Thailand, Singapore and of course Japan, who develop their own ranchu bloodlines. Since ranchu is a live animal art form, it only makes sense that each ranchu "creator" will pursue certain characteristics that are distinctive and unique to them.

It is easy to get involved in illusive search for a PERFECT ranchu. What I understand now is - the closer you get to a perfect ranchu, the more you realize its faults. Japanese ranchu masters often say "You get the tail, you lose the head. You get the head you loose the tail". Others say - "There are more faults in ranchu than merits".

All in all, the ranchu is a fascinating creature that was designed after mythical animals. Tatsu-gashira means dragon head and shishi-gashira means mythical lion head, are the two main inspirations for creating a ranchu head. The ranchu head is covered with overgrown and expended epidermis and mucous cells known as wen that develops in a certain way to give an appearance of mentioned above mythical animals.

Head growth or wen develops on one of my tosai ranchu
Shishi head, Kyoto school, carved ivory

Depending on the bloodline, the head-growth will start to develop during the first weeks, reaching its desired look within a year or two. The head-growth will continue to develop throughout the ranchu's life.  

Nisai ranchu head growth, Gorin Club, Japan

Oya ranchu, Gorin Club, Japan

The tail is another very important part of a ranchu. It must be symmetrical and be of a certain shape. When it moves it should resemble the opening of a cherry blossom or the bottom part of a kimono dress, that flips out and back during the walk. Besides its visual quality, the tail must perform its function to move the fish with grace and strength. 

Kimono dress, Kabuki Theater