Mitsunori Isa, and all the people associated with Isa Koi Farm, have been some of my closest friends in Ojiya since I arrived in 2007.  In that time Isa Koi Farm seems to have grown enormously in both its production size and quality.  In that time they’ve achieved 2 Niigata Nogyosai Grand Champions, 2010 and 2013 and Mitsunori Isa has taken over the running of the farm founded by his father, Hajime Isa, 45 years ago in Spring 1970, 18 months or so before Mitsunori was born.

The demand for Isa Showa was blatantly evident yesterday lunchtime when Mitsunori and his team were finalising the sorting of 300 nisai that had just been harvested, and these aren’t just ordinary nisai, although there are many, and hopefully better, still to come in from the mud ponds.

Isa Koi Farm nisai house

Isa Koi Farm nisai house

Mitsunori Isa sorting nisai Koi

Mitsunori Isa sorting nisai Koi

Back in 2007 Hidemasa Hirasawa was the only member of staff at Isa Koi Farm, now there are several.

Hidemasa Hirasawa on the left discussing Koi with staff member

Hidemasa Hirasawa on the left discussing Koi with staff member

Some pond shots of the best pond of Isa nisai, this is what all the excitement was about.

Isa nisai

Isa nisai

Isa nisai

Isa nisai

However much Isa Koi Farm may have grown, and whilst he may have several staff, Mitsunori very much has to oversea as well as being hands on with every aspect of the farms operation.  Midday, he has harvested and sorted 300 Koi, below he takes a breather before the many customers want to bowl Koi, which he will then price, they will want opinions, recommendations, the day is still young, and then there are the following days harvests to worry about too.

Mitsunori Isa

Mitsunori Isa

With the buyers getting into their swing I bid a hasty retreat.  Understandably this lowly photographers wants were way down the pecking order for yesterday…..


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Isa customers

Isa customers

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Mitsunori directing operations

Mitsunori directing operations

Bowling Koi for a customer

Bowling Koi for a customer

Isa customers

Isa customers

When I returned today there were two groups of customers in the middle of buying so I waited until they had finished before asking Mitsunori if I could bowl some Koi just for examples of Isa nisai for this article.  ‘Chotto matte’, he said, and took out his cellphone and made 3 calls.  Chotto matte means ‘wait a minute’, and minutes later the purchasers of all 3 of the best nisai from yesterdays harvest had granted permission to have their Koi bowled and photographed to appear here.  I have no idea who they are but am incredible grateful to them, and to Mitsunori, for facilitating this.  I hope you are too!

If ever there was a time when I wanted a quick picture and back to the pond it was now, so please forgive tails that aren’t 100% straight and pec fins that are not 100% the same.

Anyway, which is your favourite?  I know mine and really hope it is staying in Japan to grow so I can see it again.

High class Isa nisai Showa

High class Isa nisai Showa

High class Isa nisai Showa

High class Isa nisai Showa

High class Isa nisai Showa

High class Isa nisai Showa

There were so many other Koi still for sale that I could have chosen to photograph, this is one that I found rather attractive.

High class Isa nisai Showa

High class Isa nisai Showa

Mitsunori san bowled this one from the for sale pond.  I think a classic example of how breeder and hobbyist minds differ at times.  The skin is beautiful, the sumi beautiful (and you know I preach the importance of sumi on Showa), the beni lovely and thick and glossy.  But, and I think for many looking at the picture, the lack of beni pattern at the back half  kind of spoils all of those qualities.


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High class Isa nisai Showa

High class Isa nisai Showa

I thanked Mitsunori profusely and he asked how many I had taken.  I told him 5 and that was perfect, more than I’d hoped.  ‘One more please’, he requested and headed off to the ‘sold’ pond.

This was the Koi he bowled…..

'High sense' Isa nisai Showa

‘High sense’ Isa nisai Showa

I very much suspect you are thinking the same as I was thinking.  ‘High sense Showa’, he stated.  When Japanese use the term ‘high sense’ it means to have a refined taste.  Discussing the Koi with Hidemasa I asked whether the beni pattern had always been like this, he confirmed it had been.  He continued that the Koi had great skin and shiroji (white), and that was why it was kept.  Indeed those qualities were brutally evident and without question.  It was, but I understand now not, for sale, and a Koi Mitsunori has decided to keep as a prospective parent.

I hope you have enjoyed these pictures as much as it was a pleasure showing them to you.

Mitsunori Isa was one of the first breeders to hand me a culling net on a summer day when they were doing Showa selection back in 2008 and invite me to try.  Those were some of the first seeds to my dream of breeding Koi, a dream which continues ever stronger.

Seeing a Koi house full of quality Showa is simply inspirational.


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