In the spring of the late 1980’s, I was back again in Japan buying Nishikigoi. On this occasion, I was accompanied by a close friend named Keith Edwards who was also an avid Nishikigoi enthusiast. In August 2009 I met Keith again at a Koi show in Kent where part of our discussions revolved around this Koi.
We had visited all the breeders in Yamakoshi, but had only found a few Koi to purchase, so we then went south to Isawa where we visited Toshio Sakai; Sakuma and Haibara who we also could only find a very few Koi to buy from.
So then I decided to try and find Koi in Hiroshima Prefecture.
Isawa, where we were at that time, is on the way from Tokyo to Hiroshima but is not on the main Shinkansen line, so we had to return from Isawa to Tokyo in order to take the Shinkansen direct trip to Mihara, from Tokyo to Hiroshima for a six-hour rail journey.
We arrived in Mihara at around 6.30pm. in glorious weather and checked into the Mihara Kokusai hotel which is right next to the seafront. We both took showers and refreshed ourselves after which we started a casual stroll around Mihara, which is a really truly beautiful city.
There are many small islands of the coast of Mihara, which are so picturesque and many people dwell on these islands. In view of this, there are many ferry boats coming in and out of Mihara carrying, people and cars, in order to get them to work and back, seven days a week.
We next decided to take a couple of ice-cold lagers and found a suitable bar near the seafront. The bar was almost empty of customers, and, after we had ordered our drinks of ‘bieru’ the owner of the bar asked us why we were both in Mihara and where we came from. I tried to explain that we were both from England and were looking for Nishikigoi. The bar owner recommended that we should pay a visit to the Sakai Fish Farm and I explained that we would be going there on the following day.
After we left the bar we started to explore the many seafood restaurants that are right on the seafront in order to buy our evening meal. The wonderful meal was accompanied with two excellent bottles of red wine. After which, we both retired to our beds.
The following morning we had arranged to start breakfast at 8.30 before Mr. Hideo Masutani, our guide for the area, would collect us both at 9.00am.
Mr. Masutani arrived on the dot and we climbed into his car, the weather was still glorious. Mihara is a really beautiful city.
We first visited Mr. Masutani’s own farm and found some wonderful Nishikigoi there from one year to three years old and we bought many of these, which would help to boost our summer selection back home.
However, a BAND (British Association of Nishikigoi Dealers) show was approaching in August of that year and I needed a very special Koi to enter into the show. So, after a quick lunch, we headed towards the Sakai Fish Farm, which was only a one-hour drive away.
We arrived there at around 2.30pm. and started to look around the ponds when Hiroji Sakai, himself came over to us and apologised that he had few Koi for sale as his spring Koi sales, that season, had exceeded all his predicted expectations.
In any event, we continued to look around all the ponds until I came across a pond which only contained one single Koi – and that was a magnificent 75cms Showa which was resting on the base of the pond and very still. I then asked Masutani San to place it into a bowl for me, in order that I might be able to inspect her much closer. Masutani chose not to net and catch the Koi itself and instead then went to find Hiroji Sakai to carry out the task himself as he was very afraid of possibly damaging the Koi.
However, when Hideo San returned with Hiroji San, Hiroji picked up a large Koi net and handed it to me, as if to say, ‘Go on, you are a professional, and I trust you to net my Nishikigoi safely’.
Within seconds the Koi was safely in the bowl and Keith and I were salivating all over her! She was perfect in every possible way! I then asked Sakai San as to the price of the Koi and he immediately replied by saying that, because he had caused me to pay so much railfares to Mihara and to pay commission to Hideo, he would sell her to me for 1,000,000yen but her actual price to any one other person would be 2,000,000yen. That Showa was well-worth 1,000,000yen and so I bought her, there and then – Keith also congratulated me!
That day, I also bought more nissai and sansai from Sakai San, before we returned to the UK.
Not quite! The Koi was shipped back in perfect condition and was rated by amateurs all around the UK, as one of the finest Nishikigoi, to ever to enter the country.
Then along came the huge BAND Koi show held in September that year at Stafford where Koi were permitted to be judged ‘Japanese-style’ alongside each other within varieties and size groups. We had two separate shows at these events – one for enthusiasts and the other for dealers.
I entered this Showa into the Dealer’s Showa class but during the judging, two of the judges approached me to tell me it had been entered in ‘Showa’ classification when they would have entered her in ‘Kawarimono’ classification as she was a ‘TRUE Kage Showa’ and, as such, could not be entered in ‘Showa’ class.
I explained in detail to these two judges that the Koi was a true Showa from head to tail and that I would continue to enter her into true Showa class. The two judges then explained to me that, if this Koi was entered in ‘Showa’ class, she would not receive any major awards, but if I entered her into the ‘Kawarimono’ class she could receive many more important awards.
I refused to budge and kept on saying that she was truly a 100% Showa and that was the classification that I had decided to base my final decision on.
One of the judges even said that they could even see the ‘ASAGI LINEAGE’ in this Koi – what a load of TOSH!
As promised by the judges, the Koi took no awards, whatsoever, in ‘Showa’ classification at all because this had all been determined in advance, by some of the judges of the day as ‘KAGE’!.
HOWEVER, WHEN ALL THE JUDGES AT THE SHOW VOTED FOR THEIR FINAL DECISION OF THE DAY IN THE DEALER’S CLASS, MY SHOWA TOOK THE SUPREME CHAMPION AWARD AWAY – AND ALSO IN ‘OFFICIAL’ SHOWA CLASS!
How can this have been possibly allowed to happen?
After the show I sold this magnificent Showa to the late and truly wonderful John Pitham at Koi Water Barn, in Kent
God bless John.