The best place to start is at the very beginning so here goes.
Autumn 1977 was my very first visit to Japan with some 25 members of the British Koi Keeper’s Society; the last three days of the visit were spent looking for Koi in Niigata.
(By then I had been keeping Koi for five years; I had been chairman of BKKS National Shows; I was instrumental in forming part of the Judging and Standards Committee and I’d written and published articles on the hobby – In short I WAS A TRUE KOI EXPERT!)
On the second day in Niigata, one of the stops made according to our translator guide (a lady from Tokyo, who had never seen a Koi before) announced that were were at the most famous Koi farm in Japan.
The name was Matsunosuke and she spelled it out for us, then she mentioned the owner’s name, which was Sakai – much easier for us to remember. She then mentioned that our coach could not access the farm and it would mean a walk to the bottom of the village over the mud tracks.
Some stayed on the coach and some didn’t I was first in the queue of the ‘didn’ts’ and we started the walk through what I later learned was Mushigame village.
The elderly Mr. Sakai who owned the business then had two sons and his eldest son greeted us on arrival with a warm smile, however he made sure he stayed with our interpreter as he had never seen foreigners before and looked a little apprehensive.
Of course he thought we were merely sightseers only there on holiday, he couldn’t begin to think we’d be barmy enough to buy Koi and ship them back to the UK!
There were two indoor ponds, a rare sight in those days, we thought they were enormous but, in truth, the larger of the two was little more than 3,000 gallons. However, it was the Koi in these ponds – some almost 65cms long that we really wanted to see and that was easily the best display of Koi we had ever seen on the entire visit.
These Koi at 65cms were GIANTS – things that we just could not believe. Huge Koi in just about every variety (and I knew ’em all – ‘cos I was an expert!) were swimming in these ponds.
It was also true that in those days Matsunosuke WAS the most important name to Koi breeders and Koi collectors with regard to world class examples.
We spent around one hour there and several Koi were purchased, we left convinced that this guy bred just about every variety of Koi known; but it would be a few more years hence before I discovered he only bred Go Sanke and the other varieties on sale had been exchanged from other breeders who needed to purchase Matsunosuke Go Sanke.
By the time we’d returned to the UK and settled down It wasn’t long before that visit just became a memory to me.
In ’79, after a divorce and also having to retail punk music instead of proper music in my proper job as manager of a large record store, I decided to bite the bullet and become a Koi dealer.
Of course any one I mentioned this to implored me not to go down that road and stick with my ‘job for life’.
The thing that finally decided me to stick with my new way of life was another 2 minute burst of ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ and that was that!
Since then I have always been eternally grateful to Mr. Rotten and Mr. Vicious but also Mr. Scabies played another vital part admittedly.
(Of course, if anyone had the title of being real punks, it was the bands of the early ’60’s who used to go to and from gigs on a bus with all their gear – not namby-pamby safety-pin laden children with an attitude who were chauffeured around in nice motorcars by their managers!)
I traded from home initially, the same home I’m at today. The back garden and the back patio had been taken up with Koi ponds as had a back room of the house and the entire garage.
In ’79 I contacted Kamihata Fish Industries in Chiba and asked for a shipment of Koi, thankfully one guy working there spoke perfect English and sent me a first class letter back to ask the type of Koi I needed.
Being even more of an expert by then, I wrote back and asked for 8″ – 9″ Koi (size was the most important thing to consider first) and then asked for Kohaku, Sanke & Showa but they had to be blood red, jet black and purest white because I knew a thing or two about Koi, after all I was an expert!
(Having done this once or twice before it is best to assume that one will get the entire opposite to what one has requested because that’s closer to the actual truth of it all. I was half-expecting cartons full of 3″ metallics and Kawari varieties and there would be nothing one could do when they arrived after everything had been paid up front.)
FOR ONCE AND ONLY ONCE THAT I CAN EVER RECALL – THAT WAS NOT THE CASE!
I can still recall my expletives upon opening the 15 cartons on my remaining patio. 15 x 9″ Koi in each carton gave me 225 Koi and they all averaged around the size of 8″ – 9″ and all were in perfect condition.
That was a plus no doubt but the important part was the Koi themselves.
Blood RED; Jet BLACK and the whitest of WHITES – the patterns were also not exactly poor either!
I released these precious Koi very carefully into several ponds that were awaiting them and spent the next few hours just staring at them.
Firstly, the UK had NEVER seen Koi of such quality and secondly they had landed me at £6.00 each – a pittance for the Koi I saw before me!
Profit sprang to mind – dare I ask £25.00 each for them and quadruple my cost?
Best to sleep on it Waddy and view them all again in the cold light of the next day.
I DID view them all again the next day to find they were even better than I’d imagined and were doubtlessly the best Koi ever offered for sale in the UK so I thought I’d try out a new plan which was to select them from the best down to the worst by way of 225 Polaroid photos all numbered – the films cost me (with wastage) £250.00 so that added another £1.00 to the cost of each Koi.
PEANUTS came to mind as I numbered and priced every photo!
After a few phone calls and some visits, the word of mouth from guys who had seen them did all the advertising and sold the rest to people from up to 250 miles away?
The best sold for £295.00 and the worst sold for £49.50 – all sold within two weeks and two guys even had a fight over one of them.
With that taste of success I ordered some more by contacting Kamihata.
Alas, Kamihata couldn’t remember where they came from; the man said they had bought them at an auction and had no idea as to the name of the breeder.
I never saw the likes of these Koi again until my third trip to Japan in 1982.