The Legend Of The Koi Fish Who Became A Dragon | Japan Blog 2022

Hey everyone! Thank you all for making this possible! Please subscribe to our unlimited Travel + Language Japan blog below. 

Legend Of The Koi Fish 

By Sagan Rios 


As you may know, the story of the Koi fish who became a dragon has roots to China. The legend tells a story of hundreds of Golden Koi swimming up the yellow river in China. For years the Koi fish could not reach over the top of the river, in the highest mountain area. There was only one Koi left trying, and after multiple attempts at jumping the water fall the demons laughed and mocked the Koi. This went on for hundreds of years while the Koi kept trying over and over again. That Koi fish kept jumping the waterfall and finally made it to the top. When the gods witnessed this feat, they decided to grant the Golden Koi the power and he transformed into a Golden dragon; as it was a gift for showing determination and perseverance. 


How Japan adopted the story over time... 


Often, the story of the Koi fish is relayed into the importance and message that one must carry a bold will and strong determination to achieve anything of great stature. This is why in Japan many refer to the Koi fish story as a symbol of the Strength and mental/physical determination that one must have as a Samurai. The way of the Samurai as well as the honor factors and moralities behind it, transfer into the way of Japanese culture; even in the cases of Samurai based syndicates like the Yakuza. Because the Yakuza carry this code of honor and determination/ will to achieve their tasks; there are many tattoos of Yakuza who have Koi fish. If you notice, the Koi fish on a Japanese style tattoo is always swimming up the body part; this is because of the legend. 



That's Cool...but What is a Koi Fish and what does it mean??

The Koi fish in Japan extends it roots to many different meanings, festivals, cultural activities and more. As you know, boys day (Children's Day)  is a holiday where every boy makes a Carp/Koi out of paper or material and lets them blow in the wind to show prosperity and hopes for good fortune. 

The Koi fish means: 

strength, courage, patience, and success through perseverance.

This comes from the story of the one Koi fish that triumphed over the challenge at hand with all of its might and was able to receive massive reward from it. This ideology goes way deeper than you may realize. The Koi fish representation in the story can literally reference any challenge a person has or an objective to attain a large goal, even one that requires power over a strong force like nature itself (in the story it was the waterfall). If one can muster the strength within to determine themselves a win over the task at hand; great opportunity will follow. I personally believe that we can all take some Japan culture with us by knowing that if we all put ourselves fully into something, we can achieve mastery. 



Japanese Phrases to learn about KOI: 

Koi no takinobori(鯉の滝登り) a koi’s swim up a waterfall: Refers to overcoming obstacles that seem almost impossible.

Oyobanu koi no takinobori(及ばぬ鯉の滝登り)a koi unable to swim up the waterfall: The direct translation refers to a situation in which no amount of effort, passion, or dedication can help you obtain something (the task is impossible). However, this saying is often used playing on the word “koi,” which also means love in Japanese. Thus, it can refer to unrequited love. 


I hope you all can take something with you from this blog, whether it's the Japan culture, language or simply the meaning behind it all... 

Please consider subscribing to our weekly email blog and travel membership if you like these style blogs! You can see them here + you will learn Japanese while reading about culture: 




For more please see our Instagram + Youtube: