1984. Yoshida Fish farm – Yamanashi prefecture.
This was then owned by Megumi Yoshida’s elder brother who was then Chairman of Shin-Ko-Kai and very well respected in Nishikigoi circles.
I recall my first visit there with Megumi, the farm was large with huge octagonal concrete ponds on the premises and being looked after by a caretaker who lived on the farm. Megumi’s elder brother was not prsent on the day.
The water was typical Isawa water of a rich tea colour before milk is added and so it was difficult to see the Koi in the ponds. Megumi suggested that the best pond was drained after permission from his brother by telephone.
Whilst the pond was slowly draining the caretaker suggested lunch would be taken whilst we waited and we agreed.
He then produced a large Koi net and went over to one of the ponds where he made a few random sweeps to produce only small tosai which he promptly returned to the water. At around the seventh sweep up came a large tilapia which he tossed onto the ground before us. He then returned the net and came back with a very ugly-looking knife then proceeded to open up the tilapia that was flapping on the ground before us.
Within minutes he had gutted and filleted the fish and then proceeded to cut it into mouthsized portions whilst I simply watched on in amazement. He then held these portions inside a seive and proceeded to wash them in a water return from the pond filter.
He then fetched plates, soy sauce and hashi (chopsticks) and then simply motioned us to tuck into ‘Tilapia Sashimi’ for lunch. Not wishing to be a spoilsport I watched as the caretaker and Megumi started to eat with relish. I did sample a portion with great reluctance and swallowed it but found it to be totally tasteless and very slimy. In later years I tasted other forms of sashimi and found them to be quite acceptable but I will never again sample raw tilapia!
After ‘lunch’ the pond had been reduced to a level where the all the Koi could be clearly seen and I studied each one in there before me. A Sanke jumped out at me above all the rest, this was around 65cms long and female. Megumi asked the caretaker as to who had bred the Koi and the reply came back as ‘Jinbei’ – the first time I had heard of that name.
I then started to quickly study the other Koi in the pond and, after a while, realised that every one would easily find a new owner back in the UK. In total there were around 125 Koi in the pond ranging in size from nissai to sansai to yonsai and two or three were older. I then pulled out my trusty calculator, a pen and my notebook and sat down on the edge of the pond.
After a further five minutes or so I asked Megumi to telephone his brother as I wished to make him an offer for all the Koi within the pond.
(Something I had never even considered before and very rarely since).
I gave my offer price to Megumi who then related this to his brother who said he would consider this and speak again to Megumi. Some 15 minutes later he telephoned to accept my offer and thanked me for my business which he hoped would progress in the future.
As Megumi and the caretaker netted the Koi for me to photograph individually I began to have serious doubts.
Had I made my offer too high?
I hurriedly checked back on my scribbles and confirmed that my calculations as to profitabilty were thankfully correct and leaned heavily towards my side of the bargain. We then started counting, measuring and photographing each of the Koi which took us the remainder of the day.
After the Koi arrived back in the UK, I sold the Jinbei Sanke for a price which easily recovered the cost of all the rest of the Koi purchased!
Profiteering? – I don’t think so, especially if all the Koi had been lost in shipment.
My first impressions here – ‘new adventure and new risk’.
Sadly, Megumi’s brother passed away later and his eldest son Syunichi inherited his farm and business interests. Soon afterwards Syunichi opened a brand new outlet in Hachioji after receiving a substantial offer and payment for land he owned which was required for new development.
This outlet is known as ‘Yoshida Fish Farm Co. Ltd.’ and has been the Japanese supplier to Selective Koi Sales in the UK for many years.