The rice-growing region in Japan’s Niigata Prefecture is renowned for its excellent sake (made from fermented rice) and its colorful ornamental carp fish, called Nishikigoi, or koi for short. Tokyo-based design agency, Bullet, was inspired by this regional icon when developing the packaging for a recently released sake product produced by Imayotsukasa Sake Brewery, based in Niigata. The sake brand named Nishikigoi features the distinctive bright red and white mottled patterns of the carp on its bottle and a white box cut-out in the simple silhouette of a carp. Stunning and stylish, the packaging displayed together in a retail setting look like a school of swimming Nishikigoi fish.
The ornamental carp originated in Niigata around AD 1500 when rice farmers began using the common carp as fish food, raising them in the reservoirs above the rice paddies. Around 1800, farmers began seeing colorful mutations of the fish and cross-bred them to create and stabilize new strains in vibrant colors and patterns. The ornamental carp were largely unknown outside of Niigata until they were sent to the 1914 Tokyo Taisho Exhibition as a unique product of the prefecture. By 1938, they were being exported as decorative objects to other parts of the world. Today they are prized as their own unique living art form gracing the ponds of many home gardens — and on the bottles of premium sake.