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

Chasing Elephants – The Japan Chapter – Part 2

Chip Kawalsingh

Chip Kawalsingh

Ueno Koi

He is, in my eyes, the Showa master! Simply, the master of red, black and white (which happen to be the colours of the Trinidad and Tobago flag, my place of birth). Again, I’ve owned Showa from him, so seeing the truly high-level stuff at his place – All Japan quality Koi – was incredible. The guys were a little worse for ware after the night’s exploits. Thankfully, I retreated back to my hotel early after dinner for a well-earned sleep.

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I was allowed to take some underwater shots here and to see the sumi on these Koi first-hand is incredible. It’s blacker than black, best described as a liquid, inky black leaking through the Koi. Just like the ink from those calligraphy pens.

Hiroki-san was the only breeder on the tour that doesn’t mud pond his Koi. They are all grown on in concrete ponds, as he would rather not take the risk of placing them outside. Seeing the results he gets from growing monsters indoors should excite the hobbyist. He’s growing monsters with relative size ponds. He changes lots of water and benefits from low pH too. When I was there his feeder went off in the giants’ pond, and, it was sinking food. Another piece of information confirmed by looking at what he does.

Not only did he have great Showa, but a few nice Kohaku and a particularly nice Sanke! But he is well famed for his Showa line. He joked with me (and I happened to capture it on video), that he will name one parent set ‘Trinidad’, but time will tell! Hiroki-san is a fun guy to hang with. It’s clear he loves what he does. The region he is in is about an hour from Okawa Koi Farm and is famous for oranges, which we saw and ate plenty of. The flavour was like nothing I’ve ever tasted.

Ueno Showa, was 59cm, now 70cm

Ueno Showa, was 59cm, now 70cm

Ueno-san netted a few of Mike’s customers’ Koi, one of which was truly outstanding, a true masterpiece. Seeing the bodyline and overall quality it was easy to see that it will climb past 85cm easily. Talking to him about selecting Showa, it’s all about the sumi and body. But the beni quality is equally important and, once you’ve seen it, it’s clear which has quality and which hasn’t!

Omosako Koi

Well, Takahiro and his family were some of the nicest, hard working people I’ve met. If you ever meet Takahiro-san you will always remember his smile! The highlight of the trip for me was at this farm. Mike kept it quiet, but we were going in take part in a harvest! And I’m glad he did, or I wouldn’t have been able to sleep!

Omosako Harvest Taking part in a mud pond harvest was one of my dreams, and, to see it unfolding was awesome. Dave Baker and I lifted out Koi after Koi and we both loved every second of it. What a privilege it was, and it’s all on video! Certainly a ‘pinch yourself’ moment. Being at Omosako Koi Farm I’d never seen so many giants of shiro utsuri, which is like the 4th go Sanke. It was a joy to see Mike’s customers’ Koi there, and also Orca, the new parent Koi that won at AJKS 2015.

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We did have 3 Koi in the bowl (all captured on my Vimeo video). Great pattern and skin. Body, nice motoguro but not good for jumbo. Maybe only good to 65cm. Great body and nice skin. Sumi ok, motoguro one sided. Great body and skin. Excellent sumi, equal motoguro, pattern not as nice as Koi 1. Listening to Takahiro-san, he said the Koi with the better body, skin and sumi were better than the one with great skin and pattern but not a great body for growing jumbo. He said ‘you will enjoy the Koi longer.’

Omosako Shiro Utsuri, was 76cm, now 78cm

Omosako Shiro Utsuri, was 76cm, now 78cm

What Did I Learn in Japan?

Well, many things! But in relation to growing giants, here’s a quick summary:

  • Body and skin first, then pattern (when there’s a budget restriction).
  • Quality food is a prereqisite. Feed loads, little and often, Saki Hikari.
  • Optimum water quality is non negotiable. Change lots of water.
  • The importance of bloodlines and understanding the parents (this is where a great dealer comes in) Jumbo Koi can be seen by looking at the siblings from the same spawning. Check the size compared with the others.
  • Not every Koi is amazing, no-matter which breeder or farm.

In my quest to grow jumbo Koi, I’m hoping to visit the greatest Koi show in the world, the All Japan Koi Show (AJKS) to see the very best of jumbo Koi. Japan is certainly a place that I strongly encourage every hobbyist to visit. Your understanding will increase, plus your eyes will see things that will either confirm what you’re doing, or go against it. Also, chatting with the breeders is, well, priceless! These beasts are best appreciated when seen being reared by the masters of the art. On the very last day we were taken to a location where I was asked not to film, so I enjoyed it without any distractions. It was one of those places straight off the set of ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’.

We drove up a hill on an old road that snaked and coiled, wrapping itself around the trees on the mountain it was on. As it was warm my window was down and I noticed a small creek to my left. I could hear the water bubbling and splashing as we climbed the mountain.

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The fresh, clean mountain air was energising, green, earthy and sweet. As we got to the brow of the hill, I saw ponds like giant UFO’s wedged into the mountainside. Where the sky and water became one the water was still, it seemed almost to be whispering at the shoreline it lapped. We went to what I thought to be a simple, weatherworn pump house. How wrong I was. It was a pond full of the best collection of Koi I’ve ever seen. The Koi in there were incredible! Watching those Koi swimming around in the pond, no-one spoke. We were hushed by the wonder.

These fish, some over 1m long, were magnificent. It was like watching the Mona Lisa or seeing a Picasso moving, colours all being splashed on a canvas of water. Slowly the hush was gone as we began to talk over the merits of the Koi we saw. What an unforgettable afternooon!

‘Jumbo Koi’, ‘elephants’ – call them what you want. Can you have them with great skin, body and pattern, with lustre and shine? The answer is yes! I was watching them, memorising every pattern, day dreaming of them being beamed Star Trek style to my pond. Watching these living jewels shine was certainly a fitting way to end the trip.

All the farms in south Japan were different, from their location to the variety they produce. The only thing that was generally the same was the water, the base canvas of the art we enjoyed. The Koi all swam in pretty much the same water chemistry and ate the same pellet type food. Maybe emulating this is another key to creating living art of my own? Selah. And again, Japan calls…

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 –

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