This article, written by Chip Kawalsingh, was first published in ‘Nishikigoi Yearbook – Volume 3, and is republished with the permission of both author and publisher.

Previous parts of Chip’s ‘Chasing Elephants’ series of articles can be found here:

Chasing Elephants – The Pursuit of Jumbo Koi (a hobbyist perspective) – Part 1

Chasing Elephants – The Pursuit of Jumbo Koi (a hobbyist perspective) – Part 2

Chasing Elephants – The Japan Chapter – Part 1

 


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Chip Kawalsingh

Chip Kawalsingh

Dreams can come true!

Thanks to Mike Snaden, in partnership with the southern breeders, Yume Koi ran the 2014 BKKS Breeders Challenge. Each breeder offered five Koi and hobbyists had the chance to purchase these Koi which would be left in Japan to grow on in the breeder’s mud pond. The Koi that got the most votes by the breeders won a trip to Japan – plus you get to keep the Koi. I saw this as a fantastic chance to own a high level Koi for under a grand and have it grown on, too. And I won! My chosen Okawa Kohaku took the most breeder votes. So, with tickets booked by Yume Koi Airlines agent ‘Mike’, I was off to Japan! I couldn’t believe it. In November 2015 my dream was about to come true!

Mission Impossible Feeling

An email arrived with detailed instructions on what to do once I got to Japan. Now, I travel abroad often for work, but once I land wherever I’m going I’m picked up and taken to where I’m working. This was the first time I had to do it all by myself in a country where I’ve never been. The email had directions out of the airport, where to buy train tickets and directions of where to get off and where to get the other train. If all went to plan I would meet Mike at Hiroshima Train Station. I could feel the cold sweats setting in! Thankfully, a week before the trip I was joined by David Baker and Andy Baker. After all a long flight we landed in Osaka, Japan. After queuing for ages, we cleared customs and headed out the airport, up the stairs on the right, over the bridge and purchased our train tickets. Instruction one of 1000 done! We were on the train heading to our rendezvous point with Mike. Japanese trains are an experience. They’re nothing like the lapsed, dirty, and often-tardy British trains. These machines are amazing and precise!

My goal in Japan was simple: firstly enjoy it, see great Koi, meet these famous rock star breeders and ask as many questions about growing jumbo Koi as they can tolerate! Over seven days we visited these Koi farms:

  • Momotaro Koi
  • Matsue Koi
  • Takigawa Koi
  • Okawa Koi
  • Ueno Koi
  • Omosako Koi

I’ve made a three-part video of our trip to Japan (available free on Vimeo) that captures far more than I can write in this article.


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Part 2: https://vimeo.com/146574390

Japan, Breakfast and Koi

Mike’s relationship with these breeders was evident from day one. As he speaks Japanese, Mike’s been able over the years to connect with the breeders on a level that affords us mortals access to genuine high-level Koi. Also, as Mike has his own vehicle there he was able to take us around. He catered to our every need fantastically well (not that I’m needy at all!).

Breakfast was an experience. I’m not good with rice, seaweed, and clam soup for breakfast. Day one was fine, but by day two I was dying for toast! Lunch and dinner were fantastic, though, as I love most Japanese foods. The level of Koi we saw in these breeders’ ponds was purely mindblowing. There were a few purchases within our group.

These are working farms so we were there sometimes during their busiest time of day, but were taken care of very well.

Takigawa Koi Farm

For me, Takigawa-san is the master; the sort of old school, unassuming, giant of a Koi master. His farm was big, with ponds and mud ponds everywhere. I just wanted to stay on his farm and follow him around. I joked with him that I would camp onsite and cut the grass, take out the rubbish, do whatever if it meant I could spend a summer learning from him. He has a way with Koi. The way he handles them, how he talks about them, the attention to detail on his farm makes you fall in love with his fish.


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If you own a high level Takigawa Koi, you have a piece of artistry. What a privilege it was to have dinner with him one evening. We enjoyed Japanese marbled beef, grilled in front of us, with rice and veggies. We were able to ask any questions we wanted and Takigawa-san was gracious enough to answer. Mike was our interpreter and cook. We asked about everything from breeding, to culling, to growing, body and pattern. This was pure class and awesomeness at a high level.

We were also taken to his mud ponds and saw Koi that few have ever seen. These were in fish houses just outside the farm. They were out of this world, true beasts, living jewels like the dinosaurs of old seemly playing in a pond majestically almost with a sense of heavenly interlude, slowly gliding by right in front our eyes were these 90cm plus Koi.

What was evident is his way of culling and raising Koi is quite different to others. His Nissai are relatively small compared to the other breeders, but the end result of the Koi is something to behold. Sheer brilliance. It was evident that Mike has a real relationship with Takigawa-san, like a father-son mentorship. It was awe-inspiring being there.

Mike Snaden and Takigawa san

Mike Snaden and Takigawa san

Matsue Koi Farm

Taka-san is a true gent, a special guy. It’s called ‘Matsue’ as it’s the name of the town (like Okawa, it’s not the name of the breeder but the location of the farm). Most of my Kohaku come from Matsue and to see their origins was great. The level of his Koi is truly great. I was fortunate enough to film some underwater footage of these girls. They were breathing! His farm was located off a busy street, which I wasn’t expecting. Nonetheless, it was a big farm with quality fish. Owning a Matsue Kohaku is good, as Taka-san seems driven by selecting the right Koi and pairing of parents. Mike took part in Taka-san’s harvest, which happened over the weeks before we arrived.

Chip, Taka-san, Andy Baker and Dave Baker

Chip, Taka-san, Andy Baker and Dave Baker

Andy Baker photographing Koi at Matsue

Andy Baker photographing Koi at Matsue

Okawa Koi Farm

Well this was a long slog of a drive for Mike and he did well to get us there without a speeding ticket! But nonetheless he got us to Yuji-san’s place. Again, I’ve got a few Kohaku from him and it was awesome to see his place. It was apparent right away that it’s a family run farm like the others. Upon arrival we were given drinks and we sat in Yuji’s place overlooking a pond of beasts, massive Koi with incredible frames, great skin and pleasing patterns. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time there, pretty much just one evening, but it was a productive one.

Okawa Kashira Kohaku

Okawa Kashira Kohaku

I purchased Yuji-san’s ‘Kashira’ and it will remain out there for a season…or three!


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Kashira; is the term used to describethe absolute best of the best Koi. It’s important to appreciate that this is a relative and dynamic descriptive. As Koi develop and change so can their Kashira status. To truly understand Kashira you have to understand Koi, the breeders and Japanese culture.

To be continued……the 3rd and final part of this article will be published on 12th March 2017.

 

 

Nishikigoi Yearbook Volume 2

The complete article was published in Nishikigoi Yearbook Volume 3 which is available to purchase in many leading Koi outlets or directly from the publishers – http://www.nishikigoiyearbook.com/.


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