Some three months prior to the Rinyu Club auction already mentioned, Den, Bill Oakley and myself visited the ’96 All-Japan show at the Ryutsu Centre. Den returned to the UK after the show but Bill and I took the early Monday morning train to Isawa for a flying visit as we were returning to the UK on Tuesday morning after spending the Monday evening at Narita.
Everything had been arranged in advance with Toshio and we arrived to find a three-meter show pond set up on the concrete pad before his three main ponds containing his finest stocks. Toshio’s staff were also standing by to carefully move selected Koi into the pond, not by lifting nets – always by vinyl bags.
After two hours or so, four amazing Koi had been purchased but there were five Koi in that show pond. The remaining one was one I asked to be displayed, a Sanke I had seen there for the last 18 months that Toshio always seemed reluctant to discuss. The Sanke was female although one could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. She had length but the body shape was more like a pipe than a cigar.
Furthermore, she was much more expensive than the other’s in the pond. We’d paid in full for the four Koi but I kept returning to the pond to study the ‘Pipe Sanke’ once more. Toshio and his staff were busy moving the sold Koi back into their respective ponds and Bill came over to see the Sanke.
We knelt next to the pond and just gazed; Bill had serious misgivings with the Koi whilst I had none. She was only six years old then and I had a feeling she would blossom into something very special in the future. I then asked Bill to consider exactly why Toshio valued her so greatly and I think that’s when Bill also considered the question. I gave Bill my honest advice to cancel the other four and go for this one, which would mean a partial refund of monies already paid. Bill considered it carefully and then said ‘No, I’ll take this one as well.’
Toshio looked very surprised as Bill paid for her and mentioned ‘Ichi-ban All-England’ before he drove us to the station.
Those five Koi were shipped alongside the Koi we purchased in April and arrived in the UK in May ’96. My guys picked them up from Heathrow and I waited, along with several other UK Koi fanatics for them to return to Infiltration around midnight. I had a large bowl at the ready to inspect one Koi and one Koi only – the Pipe Sanke and all other Koi were placed in the respective ponds. Bill’s other four Koi were getting gasps of approval whilst some of us were looking at the Pipe. Gradually the other onlookers started to look at other Koi and left just two of us staring at the Pipe. The other ‘starer’ had been with me to Japan on several occasions where I’d taken him to just about every area and all the major breeders. The guy looked over at me and whispered – ‘Waddy, that’s the best Koi I have ever seen in my life’! No one else even gave it a second glance.
(NOTE – rather than staggering this episode, which lasts for another five years, I’ll continue with it and come back to autumn ’97 after this episode.)
All five of Bill’s new Koi were delivered to his pond in June ’96 when Bill took Supreme with Lady Di in the same month. Den visited Bill’s pond to check everything out on a weekly basis and would report back as to what was going on there. He kept telling us that The Pipe was growing at an alarming rate and it was difficult for other Koi to get to the food. After that I got endless ‘phone calls from Bill telling me the same story.
Soon after this it was decided to install a large submersible pump into Bill’s pond to create an extra current that we believed would also increase body and growth. Bill’s pond, although deep, had a near circular surface area that was not exactly large. Within a month or so Bill and Den mentioned that many of the Koi in the pond were taking on a distict ‘bend’ around the shoulder area, which I had never witnessed before.
In autumn the same year, Toshio came over to give a lecture and Den took him to see Bill’s Koi before he returned to Japan. In an instant the man spotted and solved the problem with the bulges on the shoulders and by simply reversing the direction of the current from clockwise to anti-clockwise monthly, it produced an almost instant cure.
Whilst all of this was taking place, ‘The Pipe’ took not an ounce of notice other than eating and growing both in length and width. By then she had been named ‘Doris’ – the name of Bill’s mother who always accompanied him to the shows.
In 1997, Doris was entered for the first time into the BKKS National at 82cms and walked away with the Supreme Champion award.
She repeated that success at 86cms one year later at the 1998 BKKS National when it was decided she would not be entered into another show again for a further two years.
Bill took the Supreme Champion at BKKS ‘Koi ’99 with another Kohaku of Toshio’s, which was true ‘Magoi Kohaku’ complete with cigar body.
‘Koi ‘99’ Supreme Champion.
In February 2000, Toshio rang me at home one evening to mention the family of the late and wonderful Ryo Kamiya had asked him to sell the ‘Kamiya Sanke’ that had recently taken Supreme Champion at the 1999 ZNA All-Japan show.
He gave me the price required and insisted that she must be sold to an overseas collector on instructions from the family. Bill Oakley bought ‘The Kamiya Sanke’ and later christened her as ‘Nellie’ – the name of his mother-in-law.
The ‘Kamiya Sanke’.
‘Nellie’ arrived in the UK in May and came directly into my own pond, by the time BKKS ‘Koi 2000’ came around she was 89cms. and Doris was 90cms.
It’s quite a scary thing transporting Koi such as these monsters to a Koi show held in high summer when eggs can be released spontaneously for no apparent reason at all and then there’s the security aspect to consider from the time they are entered to the time they leave.
I made sure that the two ponds they were entered into next to each other had round-the-clock security for the entire show.
Both Koi arrived in perfect condition, one world class Sanke in one pond with an Asagi and another world class Sanke in the next pond together with a Kohaku. My only regret was that no video was made of that sight!
On the Friday evening after benching had finished, Den and I spent an hour staring at the two Sankes in an attempt to predict the result that the judges would come up with, there were no other Koi entered that could possibly be considered. Back at the hotel with pint in hand, Den gave his choice as Doris and I considered the judges may have been influenced with the fact that Nellie had taken the ZNA award so I voted for Nellie.
Den was correct – In 2000, Doris took Supreme Champion at the BKKS National for the third time. That’s the first time that has ever happened and I can’t see it ever happening again.
That weekend I kept returning again and again to marvel at Doris; ‘The Pipe’ of old now resembled a battleship!
I’d forgotten exactly how many shows I had attended in all parts of Japan and many others all around the world but it was hard to come up with another Koi that could equal Doris.
Perhaps I was overexaggerating to myself and simply wished to convince myself?
This all came to a head on the Sunday afternoon as I watched Manabu Ogata and his Japanese breeder friend, who were both attending the show; walk across to the two ponds in question.
They spent at least 15 minutes pointing and discussing the two Koi in question before I decided to approach them. Manabu is one of the true ‘Gentlemen of Koi’ and I had met him many times before when he spent some time training at Izumiya before venturing out alone to eventually become a world-class Koi breeder.
Obviously I cannot recall the exact conversation today but it went something like this.
‘Peter san – your Koi’?
‘Yes, Ogata san.’
‘Matsunosuke Magoi Sanke’?
‘Yes, Ogata san.’
‘Cannot find Koi like this in Japan today Peter san,impossible.’
‘Thank you Ogata san – I know.’
If one of the few Nishikigoi breeders in the world to have produced an All-Japan Champion said that, take it as read, he meant it!.
I left them gazing at Doris and walked away knowing I would never find another Doris no matter how hard I tried.
Doris is still the finest Koi I have ever seen with my own two eyes!
In 2001, Bill entered Doris again to the BKKS National show, by then she was almost 93cms and totally unstoppable – the very best I had ever seen her.
We placed her in the show pond as usual and went about other duties with other entries to the show.
Some 15 minutes later Den came over and whispered ‘Doris is not happy.’ I rushed over to see her and she was in trouble.
One never questioned the water quality in the show ponds at a ‘BKKS National’ did they?
I called the show organizer over and asked if the show water from the mains was purified – he said it was.
Then I saw other ponds with Koi in similar trouble.
We had good water in containers on our trucks and within 10 minutes Doris was bagged and packed to make the 150-mile journey back to my pond at home.
Ian Miles, a guy who worked for me, spent a night gazing at her by torchlight, watching her every move. Doris died around 5.00am the following day and he rang me immediately.
Before then other Koi at the show had died and I instructed the guys to remove all of our Koi that were there. After that, BKKS ‘Koi 2001’ was abandoned!
By then, the National newspapers of the day had reported it all – it was everywhere.
The gentleman that is Bill Oakley took the news to heart, by then we had done our own water tests and had found the answer immediately.
Chlorine at very high levels was the culprit – the show organisers simply could not be bothered with passing it through purifiers because it was simply far too time-consuming.
Bill, Den and myself found us back down near the showground some three weeks later after Bill had started legal proceedings against each and every member of the show committee who were all in attendance.
All Bill asked for was the truth of it all and no more, if the truth was forthcoming he would take no further action just as long as the admission was published for all to see.
The Show Chairman refused to admit it was his mistake and so the three of us left the room for them all to deliberate.
We returned 15 minutes later to discover he’d relented (very wise man) and it was all documented in the Koi magazines of the day.
I still refer to it as murder!
Here’s to ‘Doris’, the Matsunosuke Magoi Sanke and the finest Koi I think I will ever come across – all courtesy of the genius Toshio Sakai!
Not the best of shots, sorry, I am not a photographer, but taken at 93cms she still had much growing ahead of her.
Toshio told me that the ‘beni’ on Doris could never succumb to hikui and he was correct – it was almost metallic.
I feel greatly honoured to have been instrumental in having supplied Doris.
There have been nine BKKS National shows held since the 2000 show and Bill’s Koi took 2007, 2008 & 2009 – had Doris been in competition with these it would have been ‘no contest’.