At 8am on 11th March 2017 60 judges, all professionals and members of the All Japan Nishikigoi Promotion Association (Shinkokai as it is also known), gathered in a dimmed room in a building adjacent Otemae Park, Himeji, venue of the 34th All Japan Young Koi Show, for their briefing meeting.

Judges briefing meeting

Judges briefing meeting

Joji Konishi, Shinkokai Chairman, addressing the judges briefing

Joji Konishi, Shinkokai Chairman, addressing the judges briefing

Following the meeting, under a clear blue sky and overlooked by the imposing sight of Himeji Castle, the judges gathered for what would be their first task of the day, selecting the Koi to be crowned Grand Champion of the show, the best Koi under 63cm is length in Japan.  With an entry of over 2000 Koi this would be the first of many judging decisions to be carried out, and no time was to be wasted.

8.35am, judges assemble

8.35am, judges assemble

8.35am, judges assemble with Himeji Castle towering in the background

8.35am, judges assemble with Himeji Castle towering in the background

Whilst judging was not scheduled to start until 9am, with everyone ready, and time at a premium, the judges were sent off around the Koi which contained Koi to be considered for the title, each judges task to select 1 individual fish as their nomination for Grand Champion.

Judges search for their personal Grand Champion nominations

Judges search for their personal Grand Champion nominations

Bavornsak Supaton (aka Ton), Koi Mart (Thailand)

Bavornsak Supaton (aka Ton), Koi Mart (Thailand)

Having seen most of the entered Koi briefly the previous day, the Maruten Sanke in the picture below was the Koi which was my personal prediction although, whilst my head said this Sanke, it was a Showa bred by my good friend Mitsunori Isa which my heart wanted to win.  The Sanke was certainly getting its fair share of attention from the judges, many of whom could be seen jotting down its entry number on their note pads.

Mitsunori Isa, Algeric Berdin (DNA Koi, Philippines), and Kentaro Sakai looking at the maruten Sanke

Mitsunori Isa, Algeric Berdin (DNA Koi, Philippines), and Kentaro Sakai looking at the maruten Sanke

More judges looking at the maruten Sanke including Kiki Sutarki of Samurai Koi Centre on the left

More judges looking at the maruten Sanke including Kiki Sutarki of Samurai Koi Centre on the left

Tanaichanok Limpanusorn (aka Joe) of Koi Kichi Fish Farm, Thailand, inspecting the Isa Showa

Tanaichanok Limpanusorn (aka Joe) of Koi Kichi Fish Farm, Thailand, inspecting the Isa Showa

Having reassembled each judge would write their name, and the entry number of the Koi they were nominating, on a slip of paper and in turn place it into the ballot boxes.

Joe from Koi Kichi Fish Farm casts his vote

Joe from Koi Kichi Fish Farm casts his vote

Algeric from DNA Koi casts his vote

Algeric from DNA Koi casts his vote

Once all 60 judges, and the Chief Judge, had placed their nominations the slips were counted, hidden from the gaze of the judges by the team of young ladies who would assist each judging team through the rest of the day.


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Judges wait whilst the first round of GC nominations are counted

Judges wait whilst the first round of GC nominations are counted

Ballot slips counted out of sight of judges

Ballot slips counted out of sight of judges

9.05am, counting ballot slips

9.05am, counting ballot slips

As always, for a Koi to be crowned Grand Champion it would need to achieve 50% or more of the votes, on this occasion 31.

Ten Koi would receive 1 or more nominations, although none the required 31 votes.  The exact process for the 2nd ballot varies from show to show, however up to 5 Koi which have received the highest number of votes are moved to adjacent pools so the judges can compare them against one another more directly.  On this occasion 4 Koi were ‘out in front’ in terms of nominations received, in fact 4 Koi had received just 1 vote, and another just 2 votes.

Kohaku moved to pool 1

Kohaku moved to pool 1

Showa moved to pool 2

Showa moved to pool 2

Sanke moved to pool 3

Sanke moved to pool 3

Maruten Sanke moved to pool 4

Maruten Sanke moved to pool 4

Pool 1 - Kohaku bred by Momotaro

Pool 1 – Kohaku bred by Momotaro

Pool 2 - Showa bred by Isa

Pool 2 – Showa bred by Isa

Pool 3 - Sanke bred by Sakai

Pool 3 – Sanke bred by Sakai

Pool 4 - Maruten Sanke bred by Sakai

Pool 4 – Maruten Sanke bred by Sakai

With the 4 Koi in situ the judges then filed past them, for some they would more than likely stick with the Koi they had already chosen, for others they would have to select a different Koi from their original choice.

Judges pass by the 4 GC candidates for the second ballot

Judges pass by the 4 GC candidates for the second ballot

As mentioned time was somewhat precious and rather than go through each individual judge placing their own slip in the box, they were gathered by the head judge and entered as a batch, although each judge still maintained their personal vote.

Head judges hand in their team's ballot slips

Head judges hand in their team’s ballot slips

9.22am, second round ballot slips are counted

9.22am, second round ballot slips are counted

The 2nd round still failed to deliver a Koi with the required 31 votes, as such a 3rd and final round of voting was required between the 2 Koi with the highest vote numbers, a Sakai Sanke and the Isa Showa.

Isa Showa

Isa Showa

Sakai Sanke

Sakai Sanke

Kentaro Sakai has of course been in this position many times at all levels, for Mitsunori Isa taking the GC title at the Wakagoi Show a massive achievement and another stride forward for Isa Koi Farm.  Co-incidentally Kentaro and Mitsunori had drawn themselves in the same judging team and as such were stood next to one another, both clearly contemplating the victory, emotion on Mitsunori’s face perhaps somewhat more visible.


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9.30am, awaiting result of the 3rd and final ballot between the Sakai Sanke and Isa Showa

9.30am, awaiting result of the 3rd and final ballot between the Sakai Sanke and Isa Showa

9.31am, still waiting

9.31am, still waiting

9.32am - wait continues

9.32am – wait continues

9.33am, Shigeru Mano tries to ease the tension

9.33am, Shigeru Mano tries to ease the tension

The picture below was taken the second that the announcement was made that the Sakai Sanke had taken the Grand Champion prize in the final round of voting, the immediate disappointment clear to see on Mitsunori’s face.

9.34am, the result is read out, the Sakai Sanke is victorious

9.34am, the result is read out, the Sakai Sanke is victorious

Kentaro Sakai turns around victorious

Kentaro Sakai turns around victorious

Kentaro congratulated by Mitsunori

Kentaro congratulated by Mitsunori

Grand Champion, Sanke, 63bu, Bred by Sakai Fish Farm, Handled by Narita Koi Farm

Grand Champion,
Sanke,
63bu,
Bred by Sakai Fish Farm,
Handled by Narita Koi Farm

 

For sure it will not be the final head to head GC battle between Kentaro Sakai and Mitsunori Isa.

Thereafter the judges separated into their 12 teams to complete the rest of the judging.


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