To continue, I will now attempt just to gloss over the years between 1979 to 1996 of my own Koi life. The learning full curve came into force and I had unknowingly decided to become a Koi dealer in the UK at a time when Koi, to a huge number of Koi keepers back then, were bigger than the Beatles. The demand for Koi was quite incredible; the demand for Koi ponds almost equalled it and I became torn between buying and selling Koi versus being a high class plumber’s merchant manufacturing and selling untold amounts of boxes and fittings. Thankfully I stuck to the Koi for the best part of my time although I did bring in many Japanese granite lanterns and bamboo garden ornaments for a while. From 1982 to 1988 I spent half of each year just finding and buying Koi for re-sale and selected each and every one myself. There were only a few occasions when I made the error of ‘buying a pond’ and on each of these rare occasions it always resulted in disaster – another vital lesson I will never repeat. One thing is certain in my mind, the ones who ‘buy ponds’ have not the faintest idea of what they are looking at, but the breeders LOVE them – enough said. If the amount of money I spent in those times was totalled, it would not only bring tears to the reader’s eyes, it would also bring tears to mine. In the very early 1980’s my search was more for ‘variety’ than anything else and I could recite every single possible variety known to man and identify it instantly. I also could ‘pigeon hole’ them into exact show classifications without even thinking. I attended most of the important Koi shows in all parts of Japan and also judged at many, I assure you, my understanding of all this comes second nature to me. In view of ‘variety demand’ I brought in just about everything imaginable because I did believe then that this was ‘Koi’ and thus ensued Aka Bekko; ‘Pearl’ Gin Rin varieties; Ki Utsuri; Shiro Bekko; Shiro Muji; ‘Doitsu’ everything; Matsukawabake; Kumonryu; Hajiro; Ake-me Kigoi; Kin Hi Utsuri; Midorigoi; Ginsui; ‘Gin Rin’ everything; ‘Tancho’ everything; Kin Kabuto; Heisei-Nishiki and others. Later I had the nerve to bring in the first Chagoi and Ochibashigure professing the wonder of the ‘Autumn Leaves on Water’ translation whilst many others simply referred to them as ‘swimming turds’ despite the insistence of Mr. Narita from Komaki who told me they would become ‘the future’! (Mr. Narita loved Chagoi) In later years Chagoi were to become very in-demand by the beginners of the times.
However, in the early 2000’s I was asked to assist in benching at the annual Holland Koi show and did so for 3 years until there were complaints made to the show organisers that ‘Waddy was making huge errors in his benching classifications’. One complaint came from a person who had written a book on Koi – so he must have been an expert, and others came from overseas judges who had ZNA status. The organisers listened to these vociferous complaints and decided, in their wisdom, not to invite me to do this task again rather than confront me about it. However, I do often wish that these ‘experts’ had challenged me directly where I would have taken great pleasure in reducing them to abject confusion – I digress.
I suppose it was around 1986 when the penny finally dropped for me after realising that the varieties considered to be boring and run-of-the-mill by many (Kohaku, Sanke & Showa) were the only three that could command astronomical prices providing they were VERY special examples indeed. Once more, back to the beginning again for Waddy and the learning curve became even steeper because, in truth, there were thousands upon thousands of these to choose from in all parts of Japan. I think it was around 1990 when my outlet received comments from others that ‘It was OK to visit Infiltration as long as you needed Kohaku, the odd Sanke and maybe a Showa’. To actually get to a stage of my appreciation of all the requirements as to what made a true world-class Koi was not, however, without difficulties – nor was it ‘easy’ by any means. Some of my teachers and teachings came by way of hour after hour of close inspection at certain outlets; other valuable information came by way of high-class auctions but most came via the guys who ‘knew’ the truth. The following come to mind although there were others: – the late Kozaburo Miya from Ojiya; Megumi Yoshida from Kunitachi; Hiroshi Kawakami from Uragara; Hideo Masutani & Hiroji Sakai from Hiroshima; Seiji Hiroi from Ojiya; Toshio Sakai from Yamanashi and Mitsuo Hasegawa from Ojiya. There was no doubt in my mind that these were amongst the very best ‘Koi Teachers’ one could possibly have anywhere in the world.
Now, jump forward to September 1995 when my first book ‘Koi Kichi’ was released and went on to become the biggest selling Koi book to date. Not only were the sales significant the spin-offs were even more incredible by way of specialist Koi ponds to be designed and built all around the world but even more so by enthusiasts also from all parts of the world contacting me to find world-class Koi for their collections – always with a view to win the top awards in serious Koi shows.