An older guy checked me out of the Sun Plaza presumably before Bagpuss had the time to cake her face to perfection and was about to ask for a taxi when I heard ‘Petah san’ from behind me and realised that Takai san must have been waiting for me for a while. I put my baggage in his car and within minutes we were back at the scrap yard.
There is a concreted area to the rear of the reception area just before his three best display ponds built directly next to the main road. His oldest assistant was a bull of a man who did all the heavy duty work there and he was adjusting controls to a bench saw he was setting up.
Whilst he went to get some blue sheets, Takai san drew a square on a piece of paper and put dimensions of 50cms to the top and the side and then exploded it to 3D by sketch and putting a 25cms depth on the side. He showed the sketch to the big guy who nodded and then took me over to the bench saw and pointed to the blade as he carefully pointed out that it was simply that – a blade.
(Presumably he’d ground the teeth off a standard saw blade and had then honed it to become a circular razor blade.)
He switched on the bench saw, adjusted the side bar and commenced slicing thin strips of the material whilst Takai san sketched a sheet of the material and marked the dimensions of 100cms by 200cms by 38mm thick which I later learned was the standard size produced by the manufacturer.
The strips were sliced from the 100cm width of the sheet and were exactly 38mm wide, the same as the depth of the sheet. He then cut the strip into four equal sections 25cms long as I watched on and simply scratched my head.
The big guy then adjusted the side bar and started to cut wider strips of 25cms along the entire 200cms length of the sheet, which simply threw me into total confusion – after that he cut these into four sections of 50cms.
Takai san could see from my face that I was mystified – he put a finger near one of my eyes and then directed it to the big guy. The big guy took one of the flat sheets that measured 50cms x 25cms and laid it flat on the concrete. He then started to evenly space the 38mm x 25cms strips on top of the flat sheet, which allowed for a 38mm space between each. After that another flat sheet stood on top and the next layer of strips were positioned.
I watched with amazement as realization finally kicked in and the block was finished; there before me was a square block measuring 50cms by 50cms that was 25cms deep. The big guy picked up a hand-held banding tool, placed a strap around the outside of the 25cms depth, tensioned it, cut the tape, picked up the perfect block which he then threw over to me!
This is exactly as it looked, a block of material with open channels running right through it to allow water to pass by totally unrestricted.
I had far too many questions to ask but the language barrier stopped me dead. Takai san’s wife came over with canned drinks; I looked at her and said – ‘Su-me-ma-sen Kamihata’? and did an imitation of a telephone conversation.
Finally I was in conversation with the English-speaking office manager at Kamihata in Chiba and gave him a long list of questions I needed to him to ask Takai san.
What followed then must have taken a whole hour of Takai san answering the questions and the Kamihata guy then relating the answers back to me.
The upshot of it all started with Takai san being fed up with having his staff constantly cleaning clogged-up gravel filter beds because he knew that all he needed was surfaces that would allow the water to pass freely by. He’d been searching for a couple of years to find a suitable medium that was not heavy and could be submerged permanently.
He first spotted these blue sheets made from polyester that were made for placing under the final surfacing of roads and freeways in Japan as a form of drainage of ground water. He then visited a local builder’s supply company who ordered six sheets for him and later delivered them.
It was Takai san and his team who had to learn how to cut and assemble these sheets and assemble open cell cartridge blocks like the one I saw demonstrated to me. Takai san insisted that these cartridges together with very heavy aeration was the finest medium possible for perfect biological filtration simply because they were porous (bacteria could grow on and below the surface) and they were very light to handle.
Furthermore, if cleaning was required, the cartridge block assembled correctly to size needed no support trays and could be rinsed from above with a hose very quickly.
Nearly forgot, the man from Kamihata said that Mr. Sakai would like me to know that ‘He is a Challenger’!
After the explanations partly satisfied my curiosity he took me over to his car and drove me to yet another of his secret set-ups which was a poly-tunnel affair inside a gated and locked rectangle of land.
As he unlocked the gate he looked over at me with the hint of a smile and put a finger over his lips. Inside was a single concrete pond of around 10,000 gallons of water that sparkled but he didn’t wish me to see the pond – instead he led me to the filter system.
The filter comprised of three five feet by five feet upward-flow boxes linked together by two 6” bore transfer pipes in each. The first chamber had three rows of filter brushes suspended on rods and the next two chambers had perfectly-formed blue filter mat cartridges that were difficult to see clearly because of the incredible aeration.
He stopped the aeration to show me his cartridges and then again out came the phrase – ‘Gapo-Gapo’! He was going to earn big money after he’d re-jigged all the filter systems of his customers in all parts of Japan.
I don’t know if anyone could imagine the thoughts that were passing through my head after witnessing all of this. One thing was certain, I HAD to pass this on to the UK Koi enthusiasts as soon as my head would settle down and I could think more clearly.
After all, it was a lot for an idiot to take in on a single morning!
It was when we were passing by the pond towards the door that he caught me with his next uppercut! It was a sight that I can still see today.
In that crystal-clear water were three fish – that’s all!
Readers, I’d like you to imagine a large goldfish about 12” long with a perfect rugby-ball shape which is as wide as it is deep.
Now colour the body with the most perfect Yamabuki gold together with the most perfect fukurin on every single scale because that was one of the fish I saw.
Next, imagine the same perfect Goldfish duplicated in outline but with the most incredible RED, BLACK and WHITE of the best Showa pattern you could ever imagine because that was there also.
Finally, imagine the largest and most perfect female Magoi in the world because he had it right there. There was no need to lift it up in that crystal-clear water, she was a monster with a brown-black head and back but her flanks were pure bronze! The perfect scales must have been almost 1.75” in diameter; she had a body like a submarine; I’ll never know how long she was but ‘under exaggeration’ says 120cms.
I was speechless, he looked at me and said ‘Magoi, Nihon Ichi-ban’ (Best Magoi in Japan) and it must have been.
Where he found it, why he found it and how much he paid for it all crossed my mind at the time but ‘What use was it’ – was more the question in my mind?
This is a wonderful Magoi – but nowhere near as good as the one I saw that day.
It was then he stretched his arms as wide as he could and then said ‘Ichi meter Matsunosuke Sanke’ – and then put his finger over his lips before another ‘Gapo-Gapo’.
I had no idea what he was raving about – but the Man from Mushigame certainly was either a true genius or a raving lunatic!
By the way, this is still spring ’84, he was still relatively unknown but one thing was certain – he WAS a Challenger!
Can anyone possibly imagine what was spinning around in my head as I flew home that next day?