THE SIGN OF FOUR – (Eye patches, that is)

Some years ago, Dennis and I were visiting Yamakoshi yet again and we had two guests with us at the time. One was Sam Martin, a veterinarian, who sadly passed away recently and the other was Alan Kellaway, one of the funniest guys I have ever met – he manages to keep a ‘deadpan face’ whilst coming out with seriously funny statements with his droll sense of humour.

We did the usual rounds of travelling around the mountainsides and stopped at many Nishikigoi breeders to check their stocks. We also visited some local Nishikigoi shows to check the entries.

Some three or four days later we found ourselves, yet again, at the Shintaro Koi farm, just in time for Hiromi’s wonderful curry lunch – a favourite of ours! After an hour, or so, Saito San invited to see his freshly-harvested Sansai ( three year) Go-Sanke which he had for sale.

After turning the aeration off in the pond we could inspect the Koi more closely and Sam had his eye immediately on one particularly beautiful Sanke and asked Saito San to catch it and place it in a bowl for him to inspect more closely. The Koi was totally immaculate and Sam asked Saito San to give his best price for him to buy it from him.

Masaru looked at the Koi very closely for a minute or so and spent around five more minutes looking around the rest of the Koi in the pond. Please remember, he had only just harvested them from the mud pond that morning. He finally replied to Sam that the Sanke was his very best Sansai which he needed to sell for 500,000yen or £2,700.00! Sam told him that he would think about and then the four of us returned to Nagaoka as it was getting dark.

That night, in the Nomole bar, Sam could not speak about anything other than the Sanke at Shintaro, but, at the end of the night, he asked Dennis could take him back to Shintaro to see it again and inspect her once more as he was really very tempted to buy her.

The next morning we made our very first stop at Shintaro’s farm and asked for the Koi to be placed into a bowl again. Sam inspected her closely, and, after a few minutes, paid 500,000yen to Saito San and they both shook hands.

Some two days later we were back again at Shintaro’s farm and Sam asked Saito San if he could, once again, place the Koi in a bowl for him – Saito San did this immediately for Sam. Sam had been having dreams about her!

You must remember here that Sam was a professional Veterinarian and, after three minutes or so, pointed out to Saito San a quite severe damage by way of white skin one of her eyes which we could all detect. Saito San agreed with us and shook his head and then immediately paid Sam back with 500,000yen in cash to cancel the sale.

The next twist to this tale is that Sam asked Saito San how much the Sanke would cost him if he wanted to buy her again, in the condition she was in. Saito San thought for a few minutes and then said 50,000yen – or £270.00! Sam IMMEDIATELY paid the cash and ‘re-bought’ the Koi!

This story has not finished yet!

The next day we, once again, returned to Shintaro to check if the eye was getting worse. Instead, to our absolute amazement, found that it was TOTALLY perfect – the eye had completely healed! We showed her to Saito San and he just looked upwards into the sky and simply groaned.

Needless to say, Sam was over the moon.

The day after we made a stop at the Hasegawa Koi farm in Ojiya and told Mr. and Mrs. Hasegawa about the Shintaro Sanke, and, after they had finally understood us, they both found it to be incredibly funny and howled with laughter.

It was then that I came up with a funny idea and I asked Mrs. Hasegawa if she would go to her local chemist and buy 4 eye patches for me. I then explained to us all that we would go into Mushigame village, with eye patches on and mention to Saito San that he was getting blind, as far as Koi were concerned!

When we arrived in Mushigame, all the breeders were busy, in front of the post office, setting up the Rinyu Club show – including Saito San.

All four of us went to join them with our eye patches on and all the breeders simply stared at us in amazement – except Saito San. He just kept looking upwards to the sky with his head between his hands and the four of us simply carried on laughing!

It must have been a strange sight for the breeders to see four ‘Gaigins’ walking around their show, each with identical eye damages!

We eventually managed to explain the incident to some other breeders there who also found it very funny!

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