Graphic of red and black koi carps

Hanako, the scarlet koi

First seen by me in National Geographic

Legend has it that a fish named Hanako was the world’s longest lived. After swimming for 226 years in Japan, the scarlet koi supposedly died in 1977. It’s said that her scales determine her age, a statement that is scientifically valid today.

Like tree rings, fish scales have microscopic zones that reflect seasonal growth patterns–fisth eat more and grow more in summer; winter scale zones are narrower.

[Catherine Zuckerman]

Wikipedia backs this up in its koi entry, adding Hanako’s vital statistcs (c. 1751 – July 7, 1977) and her last owner, Dr. Komei Koshihara. Average lifespan of a scarlet koi (carp) is 47 years, still pretty respectable for a fish.

And the pondkoi blogger quotes a scientist, Mr. Masayuki Amano, who says, “This ‘Hanako’ is still in perfect condition and swimming about majestically in a quiet ravine descending Mt. Ontake [near Nagoya] in a short distance. She weighs 7.5 kilograms and is 70 centimeters [roughly 30 in.] in length. She and I are dearest friends. When I call her saying “Hanako! Hanako!” from the brink of the pond, she unhesitatingly comes swimming to my feet. If I lightly pat her on the head, she looks quite delighted. Sometimes I go so far as to take her out of the water and embrace her.”

Legend no more? Has Hanako passed into the realm of fact?