As most of us all know, Koi are even less of an ‘investment’ than a new motor car. But this is not the case in some people’s view. On one visit to Yamakoshi I had a couple of spare hours and so Den and I visited the bullring at the top of Koguriyama village to watch the event. There was an American Koi dealer sitting behind us and we smiled and nodded, he had a customer with him and we shook hands.
That evening, the customer rang me at my hotel, he must have heard that I always stayed there. We exchanged small talk and then he mentioned a Kohaku he’d seen at Dainichi that he was considering purchasing. I asked him why he had not already bought it and he relpied by saying he had to fly home the next day so he had no time. I then said he could make his mind up and ring his dealer if he wanted to make a definite purchase but he said he’d rather I looked at it first and report back to him with my comments.
I forgot all about this until two days later when he rang again from his home in Canada. He described the Koi to me and said he’d named her ‘Aphrodite’ because she had a heart-shaped pattern on one flank. He urged me to go and see her and – in his words ‘report back’. I said we would make a visit when we had time but he urged me to go as soon as possible, he said he’d ring back the next day.
We both went to Dainichi in Ojiya the next day and spotted the Koi in a large pond of 75cms to 80cms Koi. Futoshi Mano came over and we asked to see the Koi in a bowl, within a few seconds we had her in front of us. Her condition was perfect, her body and shape was fine and the pattern quite pleasing – in all, a very nice Koi. That evening, upon returning to the hotel the desk clerk told me a man from Canada had left 4 messages for me, I opened the room door to hear the phone ringing and he was on the line! He asked me what I thought of her and I replied by saying she was indeed a very nice Kohaku.
It was then he asked me my opinion as to her chances of taking Supreme Champion award in the All-Japan show in four years time and I was speechless for the first time in a long time! I tried to reply by saying – ‘It depends on the competition on the day’ or ‘It depends how she grows over the next four years’ etc. etc. but before I could explain it all he came back with – ‘I have it on good authority that Dainichi are grooming this Koi for the All-Japan in their best mud pond’. This struck me as strange, I have heard the term ‘best mud pond’ so many times before and since when, in truth, there is no such thing. Some mud ponds are far larger than others and so stocking rates are added accordingly, at the end of the day the Koi share roughly the same volume of water whether they are in a large mud pond or a smaller one. Some mud ponds may require re-lining with surface clay after three or four years and these will always be attended to but the results are pretty much the same in producing optimum conditions.
The conversation went on with the guy intimating he had this ‘inside information’ on this particular Koi and that it would be worth a small fortune if his inside information was correct – then he mentioned it could well be a ‘worthwhile investment’ whilst I shuddered at the statement – especially knowing that only one Koi per year from the whole of Japan could ever take the major award. It was then he told me that his business revolved around the investment markets dealing in stocks and bonds. It then followed that he asked me to return to Dainichi, get a price for the Koi and also obtain growing costs for it for four years. He then insisted I email him with all the details in writing, the next day I rang Futoshi, asked him for a price and confirmed that the growing fee would be as per normal. That night I emailed this information to the guy to say the cost of the Koi was 4.5 million yen and the growing/keeping cost per year was 50,000yen.
(In Yamakoshi, the growing/keeping costs for Koi up to 3 years old is 30,000yen and those over that age are 50,000yen – this is as common as knowing the price of milk or a litre of petrol. In some cases where the breeder has realised more than he expected for a Koi, he may grow the Koi for free.)
Within seconds of sending the email, the guy was on the telephone to me. The first thing he said was ‘Buy the Koi for me’, the next thing he said was ‘You have made a mistake in the growing fees’. I replied by saying that there was my commission on top of the price of the Koi and that my stated growing fee was accurate. I then told him I bought nothing for a customer without advance payment in full. I then asked why he had not bought this through his own dealer and the conversation suddenly changed to other matters like where to transfer funds to my bank in Nagaoka. He promised the funds would be with me within 7 days and implored me to purchase the Koi for him immediately. After the call, I contacted Futoshi and asked if he would hold the Koi for me for a few days, he said he would but would contact me first if anyone else wished to buy it, in real terms the Koi was secure.
The guy rang me every single day after that and, after the funds had arrived and I had paid Dainichi the full amount for the Koi plus one year’s growing fee I told the guy it was his Koi now. He was absolutely over the moon and immediately mentioned a large Sansai Sanke at Yamamatsu he wished me to comment on after emailing a picture of the Koi. I had to visit Yamamatsu to pay for some Koi purchases and finally spotted the Sanke in one of the smaller ponds, it was a Koi I would never have looked at for longer than 5 seconds. I picked up a net and brought it to the surface, as I did so, Toshiaki entered the Koi house, looked at the Koi and then looked at me with a puzzled look on his face, I let the Koi back and smiled.
As expected that night, the guy asked about the Sanke, I said it was not worth the airfreight costs even if it was given to me as a gift and the man went quiet. After a while he said – ‘That is Yamamatsu’s number one sansai’ and I started to laugh whilst saying – ‘Who on earth told you that?’ He then said he had bought the Koi and had yet to pay his dealer in the USA for it and his dealer was asking him for his payment every day. He then told me the price he had to pay which made the Dainichi Kohaku look extremely cheap and my eyes rolled upwards after I had taken it all in. 7.5 million yen for a Koi I would be hard pressed to pay 5,000yen for! Then followed the next bombshell when he related the growing cost for the Koi was 500,000yen for one year! It was later that I learned that once he had paid the dealer for the Koi, the dealer would fly back to Yamamatsu and pay him for it – always providing the Koi had not been sold before he got there!!!!
I never actually found out the original price he’d been quoted for the 4.5 million yen Kohaku at Dainichi but from the reaction to the price I told him where he quickly said ‘Buy it now!’ – it must have been truly horrendous.
This is only the beginning of this tale and the guy bought several other Koi through me, always with the belief that he had found the special Koi that would go on to take the coveted supreme award at the All-Japan show. He would then sell them at a huge profit and make untold fortunes for his careful investments – that was the theory at least. Of course it never happened and eventually realisation finally dawned on him. As far as I know, the Kohaku may still be at Dainichi, if she is, she must be at least 19 years old by now!