Mr. Hiroi guided me for the next four days, he gave me names of villages we visited and also name of breeders, some of which, by the increased height of his raised eyebrows, denoted ‘serious SH1T! I wrote all these names down phonetically to find, on my return flight, I had endless mystical names in my notebook but no idea if they referred to people or villages! I don’t really know where the time went on those days but it vanished rapidly. I confess I returned with a few Koi souvenirs but very little extra knowledge or understanding of the area although I had piles of Polaroid shots of Koi, breeder’s houses and landscapes. Despite my lone foray into Yamakoshi and despite Mr. Hiroi’s best attempts at showing me his ‘neighbourhood’ the area remained to be that of ‘mystique’ and, even today, despite my very intimate knowledge of the area and all the side tracks it produces there will always be that aura of ‘mystique’ despite the intensive yet tasteful modernisation that has taken place. On reflection it was my very first step along the journey that I would face in the future decades. Perhaps my greatest disappointment of that lone visit was, despite the number of times I desperately tried in future years, that was to be the first and last time I saw my friend Mr. Hiroi, however, the lovely man will always remain with me forever. Just try going into Yamakoshi today to ask for ‘a Mr. Hiroi who knew about Koi, he had black hair and was not very tall’!
Without doubt the greatest item I purchased on that visit was something I have treasured greatly ever since. In my opinion it is the very best book ever written on Koi and how they came to be in the first place. A Koi breeder did not write this tome nor did a wealthy amateur enthusiast as a ‘private dalliance’ and with no concern as to how many it would ultimately sell. For some far-seeing reason it was also part-printed in English and I suppose that, at one time or another, I could recite every single word of every page. It was written by Masayuki Amano and titled ‘LIVE JEWELS – General Survey of Fancy Carp’. It was first published in 1968 in A5 size although the later edition that I have was re-printed in 1977 with an addendum. Mr. Amano is described as being ‘Member of Inland Water Fisheries attached to Niigata Prefecture’.
Mere words cannot describe the untold information given in this book to a very enthusiastic Waddy back in 1979 who ‘ate’ every single word and also read between all the lines endlessly. It is simply a ‘GEM’ of a book surrounded by several expensively-produced items of ‘sheer dross’ of the day where there were pictures galore but no attempts to at all explain them.
In 1979 (11 years later) the lovely gentleman Dr. Takeo Kuroki produced his ‘Manual to Nishikigoi’ which went on to become a volume seller written from a viewpoint of a wealthy collector and Koi lover. Yes, it was mildly beneficial to serious enthusiasts but of no real use at all when dissected. It contained advice such as – ‘When your Koi scratch, throw Masoten’ – this was not a result of poor translation, this is exactly what was written. The fact that the learned doctor did not specify exactly how much to ‘throw’ nor did he specify as to whom or what one should ‘throw’ it at, is another matter altogether.
When I started to prepare my first book on Koi in the mid 1980’s, I tried to contact Mr. Amano on several occasions to seek his help. His address is printed in his book as being in Niigata City although I was never successful in my attempts. I have often mentioned his name to several Koi breeders only to be told they have never seen this book nor have they ever heard of Mr. Amano. For anyone remotely interested in Koi today, this provides incredible historical information that should substantiate origins and dispose of many myths still quoted. Obviously it does not discuss the design of Koi ponds nor does it proffer advice on medications etc. but if a book on Koi ever deserved a full re-print then this is the one – a true masterpiece. If you ever see this for sale, just buy it!
(As a total aside, I have long been very interested in the legend surrounding the Loch Ness Monster and have paid many visits to try and find ‘Nessie’ myself knowing full-well she is not there in reality. However, in my mind, she IS there! I have just about every book written on this subject of folk-lore and publicity, however, there is only one real book, long-since unavailable for purchase, which is written by a lovely lady named Constance Whyte and titled ‘More than a Legend’ – it is a fascinating account and I still love, and believe, in fairy stories!)