People may be surprised that I’m not rushing to harvests every day yet.  Several reasons; firstly other projects need kick-starting as a priority, secondly there are not so many harvests happening yet, thirdly many biggies are planned for the coming weeks, big in stature and big in Koi.

This morning I filmed some beautiful misty morning scenes as the sun rose into the sky over one of Shintaro Koi Farm’s ake-nisai ponds, Koi with which I have a particular affinity having been here when they were young fry back in summer 2014.  It’s particularly exciting to look forward to them coming out the mud ponds in the next week or so as nisai.

When I finished filming I was of half a mind to head back to the hotel and grab a little sleep.  My mind is racing at the moment with so much in the planning stages and so little time to get it captured, having finally turned into bed past midnight, after a few hours broken sleep I was back by the mud pond by 6am.  I’m not complaining, just saying, and no, I don’t want to swap jobs.

Anyway, I decided to swing by Mushigame and as I did so bumped into Toshinori Ishihara of Yagenji Koi Farm heading out to harvest.  I followed to the mud pond out the back of Mushigame Village, a mud pond that has appeared in many of my photos and videos previously.

Yagenji Koi Farm Nisai Harvest, Mushigame

Yagenji Koi Farm Nisai Harvest, Mushigame

Toshinori was joined by his elder brother Daisuke, and Daisuke’s wife who takes and active role particularly at harvest time now their children are off at school and the brother’s father Yaichi Ishihara takes a less active roll, although he is always around the farm.

Toshinori Ishihara, Yagenji Koi Farm

Toshinori Ishihara, Yagenji Koi Farm

Daisuke Ishihara, Yagenji Koi Farm

Daisuke Ishihara, Yagenji Koi Farm

Daisuke Ishihara's wife, Yagenji Koi Farm

Daisuke Ishihara’s wife, Yagenji Koi Farm

I can’t help but think women add a little glamour to a Koi harvest.


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One of the main varieties of the harvest were nisai Asagi, the first time that the brothers have bred Asagi, the parents being from Oya and Otsuka Koi Farms, 2 of the very best Asagi breeders in the world, so they had very good pedigree for sure.

Yagenji nisai Asagi awaiting harvest

Yagenji nisai Asagi awaiting harvest

Also in the mix were Benigoi, Karashigoi, Aka Matsuba and a few others Kawarigoi.

The Koi were certainly feisty as the net was closed around them.

Yagenji nisai awaiting harvest

Yagenji nisai awaiting harvest

Yagenji nisai awaiting harvest

Yagenji nisai awaiting harvest

Yagenji nisai awaiting harvest

Yagenji nisai awaiting harvest

Daisuke Ishihara with a bag of Asagi

Daisuke Ishihara with a bag of Asagi

Nisai harvests don’t generally make for the most exciting photographs but when it’s something you photograph just once a year it’s nice to get a little practice in before the jumbo Koi come out to photograph.

Toshinori Ishihara lifts Asagi to truck tank

Toshinori Ishihara lifts Asagi to truck tank

Close up as Toshinori Ishihara lifts Asagi to truck tank

Close up as Toshinori Ishihara lifts Asagi to truck tank

Toshinori Ishihara lifts Benigoi to truck tank

Toshinori Ishihara lifts Benigoi to truck tank

My good friend Alex Sanchez, Koi guide, agent, freelance Koi farm hand and full time Nagaoka resident (lucky swine), turned up at the harvest and took a rare picture of me with camera in hand.

Me at work

Me at work

The shot below is the one that I was capturing above.


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Aka Matsuba being lifted by Toshinori Ishihara

Aka Matsuba being lifted by Toshinori Ishihara

I very much recall the first time I met Daisuke Ishihara properly back in 2008.  We were in a bar together and chatted until around 3am.  The conversation seemed great as I remember, and Daisuke spoke excellent English.  A few days later I popped into the farm to speak to him to be told, ‘I don’t know English’.

He is a great guy, runs a great farm, produces some great Koi, and as I’ve said many times, if I could only buy Koi from one or two farms then Yagenji would be right up at the top of the list.

Below Daisuke was laughing as myself and Alex jokingly jostled on the bank to get the best shot as Daisuke pulled the net back into the water to net pond a second time.

Daisuke Ishihara

Daisuke Ishihara

The second pull of the net captured all the remaining Koi from the pond and they were duly bagged and carried up to the truck.

Mrs Ishihara fills a bag with Koi

Mrs Ishihara fills a bag with Koi

Anyone that thinks that this is easy work has never tried it!!

Mrs Ishihara carrying bagged Koi

Mrs Ishihara carrying bagged Koi

Mrs Ishihara carrying bagged Koi

Mrs Ishihara carrying bagged Koi

One of the things that is legendary at Yagenji is the absolutely pristine water quality of the ponds, it is truly crystal clear.  Their Koi houses are also neat and tidy.  The attention to little details is important to them.  Here the net is pulled out onto a plastic sheet to be rolled up and transported to the next pond.


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Daisuke Ishihara and wife pack up net

Daisuke Ishihara and wife pack up net

Back at the Koi house every Koi is sexed and graded.  The pectoral fin for lumps called ‘oiboshi’ which are present on male Koi.  The abdomen is gently squeezed to see if sperm can be extracted.

Sexing Asagi - checking oiboshi

Sexing Asagi – checking oiboshi

Sexing Asagi - checking sperm

Sexing Asagi – checking sperm

A farm such as Yagenji doesn’t just need nisai, it needs sansai, yonsai and older Koi as well.  The Koi above was female and deemed of quality to be kept as tategoi, maybe you can buy it next year…

Asagi kept as tategoi

Asagi kept as tategoi

Below, two Yagenji nisai Asagi looking for new homes.

Two Yagenji nisai Asagi

Two Yagenji nisai Asagi

A thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours at Yagenji Koi Farm to break me into my 2015 harvest season.


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