My decision to get a tattoo, and specifically Koi tattoo, was not something that I took lightly and I wanted something with lasting importance. For me, nothing is more symbolic than a Koi.
Throughout my life, these fish have played a significant and enduring role through my family’s business of breeding and raising high quality Koi and goldfish for the US market. Blue Ridge Fish Hatchery was founded by my father in 1958.
Yes, I grew up the son of a fish farmer. The way some grow up milking cows, herding sheep, growing rice or baling hay, I grew up breeding, counting, feeding and packaging millions of fish on a goldfish farm in Kernersville, NC, USA. Just outside of the house where I grew up are fields of water (ponds) used for growing Koi and goldfish. As a kid, my friends and I would ride motorcycles around the farm and on more than one occasion, our motorcycles ended up at the bottom of a Koi-filled pond.
As a teenager, I would drive a cargo van filled with boxes of live fish in water to the airport for shipment all over the US. Let me tell you, a vehicle full of water is difficult to keep between the lines as the water sways back and forth. Conversations over dinner were often dominated by talk of raising, selling and breeding Koi (which bored me to death as a kid). These fish were as much a part of my life as going to school, skateboarding with my friends or eating chocolate chip cookies.
In the 1980s and 90s, Blue Ridge became one of the nations largest and most successful breeders of domestic Koi, selling millions of fish a year. Also in that time, my father, uncle and brother introduced a new type of Koi to the market called the Butterfly Koi (above), which is marked by long flowing fins. Now, all over the world, these fish are bred and sold under the name “Butterfly Koi” and my brother Randy is the person that gave them that name. This development increased the success of Blue Ridge and likewise, our family’s contribution to the history of the Koi.
From my personal experiences, Koi have come to symbolize family, innovation, prosperity and strength. And so, I have chosen to mark my skin with the image of a Butterfly Koi, in the country where the Koi breeding originated (Japan) and on a place on my body where the Koi will always be close to my heart. I cannot imagine anything more appropriate for me and my arm.
See also: So, I Got a Tattoo