In 1987 I escorted some 25 BKKS members around all the famous Koi breeders in all the major Koi-producing areas of Japan – it was a hectic trip, believe me, which involved lots of travel. Isawa and would be our last port of call after Niigata – but, by then we had all been to Komaki to see Mr. Narita and then onto Mihara to visit SFF, Omosako, Masutani and Uedera.
Finally we made our way by Shinkansen from Mihara to Tokyo and thence to Nagaoka where we checked into the Grand Hotel – this took a whole day of rail travel. As far as the guests travelling with us I’ll try to recall them but I’m sure I will miss some out – the memory is not as good as it used to be!
There, I knew I would miss some out but there were DEFINITELY 25 people in our party – I know, because I had to arrange all the hotels and the rail travel!
I had chosen for us to arrive in Nagaoka on the Wednesday evening which would give us time to take in Yamakoshi, by coach, a whole day on Thursday and a whole day on Friday to explore the mountainsides. Which would bring us to the annual ‘No-Gyo-Sai’ Nishikigoi show held in Ojiya – and none of us wanted to miss that event!
On our two days of exploring the mountains we covered just about every Koi village available. On the Thursday we visited all the breeders in Yamakoshi such as Nigorisawacho; Yomogihira; Mushigame; Takezawa; Minaminigoro; KoguriyamA; Iwamagi and; Utogi; Araya and Budokubo and bought many Koi.
On the Friday we went further afield to Ojiya, Wakatochi, Kitayama; Uragara and Koide. This was the day when Ian Stewardson bought the magnifient Doitsu Kujaku from Hiroi Seiji and agreed to enter her into the show.
Our party finally arrived at the Show at around 11.30 on the Saturday morning and, armed with cameras and video cameras and eagerly visited every pond in the Show. The weather was kind (bright sunshine) and the standard of entries to the show were mostly of very high class. In short, a perfect day!
For me, however, it is frustrating, I wanted to inspect the entries closely but kept being disturbed by breeders who knew me and came over to shake hands with ‘Mr. Peter’ – the penalty for being infamous!
In one pond containing ‘Kokugyo Champions’ (best in size, irrespective of variety) I spotted a truly magnificent Hi Showa and could not tear myself away from her and then went on to take many photographs of her. She was around 60cms. long and had won Kokugyo in 60cms prize awards. I checked her photograph which was attached to the pond and, as usual, the important information was all written down in Kanji which I cannot read.
Soon afterwards, Mr. Mano of Izumiya came over to me to shake my hand. I pointed to the Showa and showed him the entry ticket and simply said to him ‘breeder name sumi ma-sen?’ He inspected the ticket closely and replied by saying ‘The owner and breeder is Hashino San in Tsunan village. I thanked Mr. Mano and wrote the details down in my notebook.
There is a golden rule when seeing special Koi at a Koi shows, if you wish to buy them and that is NEVER attempt to buy them there and then at the show itself – especially if has taken serious awards. The quoted prices will be horrendous.
By that time, all our party were salivating over the Showa – especially Joe Wilmington who urged me to get a price for him to purchase her. I then explained to Joe about the ‘golden rule’ and that I would have to find the village and personally go to the farm to negotiate prices.
The next day, all our party returned to Narita for their trip home whilst I remained in Niigata to to tie up some loose ends – especially the Hashino Showa.
I reasoned with myself that, if Mr. Hashino had one magnificent Koi like that, then he must have several more at his breeding facility in Tsunan village. The ‘plan’ was to visit Tsunan, buy some nice ‘also-rans’ for sale at Infiltration and, as we were just preparing to leave, casually mention the Showa – that was my advance plan!
Alas, Tsunan is some 90 minutes drive away from Ojiya in the opposite direction but a friend offered to drive me there. Eventually after many wrong twists and turns we found ourselves at Mr. Hashino’s facilty where I eagerly went to look at his Koi stocks and my heart sank. After inspecting his Koi thoroughly there was not one other single Koi there I could possibly consider buying other than the Showa which looked and remained absolutely magnificent – even better than she did at the Show!
In the end I had to bite the bullet and just had to concentrate on the Showa. I pointed to the Showa and then asked Mr. Hashino the price, he immediately ran back to his house and came back clutching a huge trophy and several large certificates. He then explained to my Japanese friend as to how she had just taken ‘Kokugyo Award’ in 60cms class at the No-Gyo-Sai and that she was a very special Koi! I remained non-plussed and wide-eyed as if I knew nothing and just shrugged my shoulders. Mr. Hashino also mentioned that her parents came from Matsunosuke Showa and Sensuke Kohaku.
Eventually Mr. Hashino gave me his price for the Showa, however, it was the very first time I had done business with him and so I thought I would play it carefully. The thought that other Koi buyers would even find his house was rare, so I said ‘Thank you for your price – I will return to Nagaoka to think about it’.
Two days later I found my self back at Mr. Hashino’s facility in Tsunan where I made an offer to him for the Showa. Eventually, after some discussion, we arrived at a price that we were both happy with.
Eventually the Koi came back to the UK and we placed her into our main display pond where we had no trouble with her whatsoever, instead she just kept growing with perfect body and enhanced pigmentation! Koi enthusiasts from all over the UK travelled miles to admire her – after many telephone calls on the grapevine.
One year later, Joe Wilmington bought her and I delivered her to his pond.
Some months later Scott Purdin, from the Purdin Koi farm in Louisiana, and Bill McGurk came to Infiltration to ask if I would show them Joe’s collection so over we went to Liverpool.
Scott immediately honed in on the Hashino Showa and begged me to let him have her as a logo for his business – I rang Joe and he gave me his permission so Scott took the necessary photographs.
Two years later the Hashino Showa took Supreme Champion at the BKKS National Show. It is wonderful when a plan comes together!
The famous Hashino Showa is now spending its retirement near Dusseldorf.
I have bought and imported some wonderful Koi over the years but certainly the legendary Hashino Showa remains as one of my top ten!