Belgian national, Michel Capot, has been in the Koi industry almost 40 years.  In this interview we speak to Michel about the history of his involvement, what keeps him motivated, and his goals for the future.  We also speak to Wilfried Couvet who has recently partnered with Michel and wife Maria and is president of Koi Ichi Ban SASU.

 

Nishikigoi.Life – Michel, as founder of Koi Ichi Ban, perhaps you can start by telling us how you first got involved in the Koi industry?

Michel Capot – My passion for Koi started 38 years ago after graduating in Zoology.  In 1981 I established Koi and Goldfish Farm SA in my native Belgium and became the first importer of Koi from Japan.  In time that business would become the most important European wholesaler of Koi.   fish food and pond accessories exclusively to professionals.  That company used to supply wholesalers and garden centres from continental Europe, Middle East and other countries in the world.

Aerial view of Koi and Goldfish Farm, Belgium

Aerial view of Koi and Goldfish Farm, Belgium

Koi and Goldfish Farm, Belgium

Koi and Goldfish Farm, Belgium

Koi and Goldfish Farm, Belgium

Koi and Goldfish Farm, Belgium

Michel netting fry at Koi and Goldfish Farm, Belgium

Michel netting fry at Koi and Goldfish Farm, Belgium

In 1994 I established Koi and Goldfish Farm Company Ltd., the first foreign owned company in Niigata, the birthplace of Koi, and between 1995 and 1998 the company exported an average of 8000 boxes of Koi from Japan to Europe annually.

In 2000 that business was closed an we relocated to the paradise of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.  The problem with living on Reunion Island was that it was incredibly difficult to get to Japan so, in 2002, my wife Maria and I decided to relocate to her native Philippines which was much more conveniently located being just a 4 hour flight to Japan.  For more than 10 years now we have split our time 6 months in Japan and 6 months in the Philippines.  In 2006 we registered the Philippine company Animalia 2000 Ichi Ban Inc and almost immediately Animalia 2000 Ichi Ban in Japan.


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

Reunion Island, left to right, Futoshi Mano, Toshi Sakai, Maria Capot, Michel Capot, Taro Kataoka

Reunion Island, left to right, Futoshi Mano, Toshi Sakai, Maria Capot, Michel Capot, Taro Kataoka

Nishikigoi.Life – You’ve been heavily involved with Koi shows for many years, indeed we still see one another every year at the All Japan Koi Show, the Niigata Nogyosai and others.

Michel – Yes, I organised the 1st Koi show in Belgium and subsequently supported the establishment of shows in Holland and Germany as main sponsor.  I also arranged for ZNA judges to come to Europe to visit the shows and looked after them during their visits.  

In 2010 I helped establish the 1st Philippines National Koi Show.

This year Koi Ichi Ban is a sponsor of the 2nd All France ZNA Koi Show on 14th and 15th September and we have arranged for Keiko Hirasawa of Marudo Koi Farm and Toshi Sakai of Isawa Nishikigoi Centre to visit the show as our guests.  (See more about the 2nd All France ZNA Koi Show here – http://nishikigoi.life/2019/07/29/2nd-all-france-zna-koi-show-14th-and-15th-september-2019/)

Nishikigoi.Life – What is the importance of Koi shows?

Michel – When I set up the 1st Koi show in Belgium I entered Koi and won the Grand Champion prize, the first Grand Champion prize on mainland Europe.  At the time my customers complained that if I was showing Koi then it was impossible for them to win.  Thereafter I stopped competing and challenged them to compete, making it my job to find them the right Koi to win prizes, wherever the shows are.  


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

1st Belgium Koi Show

1st Belgium Koi Show

Since then we’ve supplied customers with Koi which have taken Grand Champion prizes in Belgium, Holland, Germany and Philippines.  In 2017 a Kohaku supplied by us won Grand Champion at the Nagaoka Koi Show in Japan, and the following year a Sanke of 94cm won the Grand Champion prize at the ZNA All Japan Koi Show.  There have been innumerable other prize such as Best in Variety, Kokugyo, Tsubaki, Botan etc.  Notable examples include the most beautiful 93cm Asagi shown at the All Japan Koi Show which took Best in Variety on 3 occasions, the largest Tancho Kohaku bred by Dainichi Koi Farm, also 3 times Best in Variety winner and also 93cm in 2017.

For me there is no better feeling than to see customers winning at Koi shows with Koi which we have supplied to them.

Michel Capot collecting trophy on behalf of customer at 2007 All Japan Young Koi Show

Michel Capot collecting trophy on behalf of customer at 2007 All Japan Young Koi Show

Still my challenge is to win the ultimate award in Koi shows, the All Japan Grand Champion, I hope to be challenging in the near future.

Grand Champion, 2018 All Japan ZNA Koi Show

Grand Champion, 2018 All Japan ZNA Koi Show

All Japan Koi Show, Best in Variety Tancho

All Japan Koi Show, Best in Variety Tancho

 

Nishikigoi.Life – Indeed some very memorable Koi amongst that list, Koi that I remember well.  As well as the challenge of winning at Koi shows what motivates you to continue so long in the Koi industry, very few people have been in it so long?

Michel – My passion for Koi today is the same as it was 38 years ago.  Over the years I have trained many European dealers in the Koi industry and today many are still doing well.  I guided the best Philippines dealers for 5 years and still today they are doing very well.  This makes me incredibly proud.  I work as an international business consultant for Koi and I have decided to share all I have learned during these 38 years.  My philosophy has alway been education and quality rather than quantity and it’s through this perspective that the Koi Ichi Ban partnership with Wilfried was born.  I believe that I can bring a lot to European customers at all levels.


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

Nishikigoi.Life – Thank you Michel, that moves us nicely to Wilfried.  Wilfried, can you tell us a little about your background in Koi?

Wilfried Couvet – I started keeping Koi at a very young age over 20 years ago.  Having graduated with a degree in biology, and being a publisher of scientific journals, my particular areas of interest have been the living environment and Koi genetics.  Three years ago I decided to write an encyclopaedia of Nishikigoi, this will be published by Koi Ichi Ban in around 1 years time.  The aim of the book is to correct some of the errors in terms of identification which we often find occur with European dealers.

Wilfried with Futoshi Mano, Dainichi Koi Farm, October 2018

Wilfried with Futoshi Mano, Dainichi Koi Farm, October 2018

Nishikigoi.Life – I see, so very much in line with Michel’s philosophy of education.  Can you tell us more about your role within the Koi Ichi Ban partnership?

Wilfried – As a professional I help specialist companies who are eager to increase their own knowledge of Koi in that they can make better selections and improve their level of advice to their customers.  It’s all about education and quality.  As president of Koi Ichi Ban Europe SASU I supervise the import of Koi into most countries we work with.  The company also specialises in the distribution of food and equipment, conception and installation of equipment of specialised products relating to ponds and fish farming and also the publishing of special books.  As well as my own book mentioned above, we are co-publisher of the ZNA Nishikigoi France magazine of the France Koi Shows association who will stage the 2nd All France ZNA Koi Show Michel mentioned earlier.

Nishikigoi.Life – Tell us a little more about Koi Ichi Ban’s customer focus, is it aimed at trade customers or individual hobbyists?

Michel – The philosophy of Koi Ichi Ban since the beginning has always been to serve the professionals only. However, we have very few private ‘customers’,  in fact the term friends is better suited in our case, they are top end Koi collectors enjoying competing in Koi Shows at high levels, Koi Ichi Ban just guide and advise them.


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

Nishikigoi.Life – Does Koi Ichi Ban Europe have a store in France, or does it act as an agent ?

Michel – Koi Ichi Ban has no store for Nishikigoi, however, Koi Ichi Ban has a tropical fish farm in the Philippines where we breed only Discus, Discus Ichi Ban. 

We do not want to compete with our European and worldwide partners. It has been our philosophy for almost 40 years.  We are in a way exclusively agents!

Discus bred by Discus Ichi Ban

Discus bred by Discus Ichi Ban

Nishikigoi.Life – Koi Ichi Ban Europe has distribution rights for JPD Koi food products in France. Are there are other products which it is distributing on a wholesale basis to France, or other countries in Europe.

Wilfried – Yes, since 2019 Koi Ichi Ban became the exclusive distributor of JPD food for France in an official agreement with the CEO of Japan Pet Design Mr Ryuichi Yoshida. We are very thankful to Ryuichi Yoshida and Cherine Chu to have entrusted Koi Ichi Ban to distribute JPD food in France. 

JPD offer a wide range of high quality Koi food, it is a 2 centuries old company with ancestral know how. They have a huge knowledge acquired over time and through their partnerships with university research centres to improve their products.  We have been attracted because of our equally scientific background. 


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

JPD Koi Food

JPD is a very active and modern company, they work a lot on their communication and are always in contact with the breeders and their distributors, sharing a lot of what they learned. 

We are of course going to distribute other products for ponds and fishes and books in the future.

We would like to innovate  and partner with veterinarians, scientists, engineers to create our own product line. We will talk about it in the months to come.

 

Nishikigoi.Life – There are just over 2 months until the 2019 harvest season will begin. If people are interested in visiting Japan what services do you offer, and when are you available?

Wilfried – If some professionals wish to work with us, to share our philosophy clearly explained on our website, we invite them to contact us without hesitation via e-mail or telephone. Our season 2019-2020 will  spread over several months from October 2019 until May 2020. If it is the first time that they are visiting Japan, they will be able to visit several traditional sites, discover Koi breeding farms from the north and south of Japan, as well and also understand the Japanese way of thinking, their unique philosophy, for good relationship in the respect of each other!


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month

Koi Ichi Ban team with UK customer Drew Simons (left)

Koi Ichi Ban team with UK customer Drew Simons (left)

Nishikigoi.Life – Thank you.  Before we end this interview we must of course mention the other member of the Koi Ichi Ban team, Michel’s wife Maria.

Michel – Of course Maria is a very important part of the Koi Ichi Ban team.  She worked in Japan for 15 years before joining Koi Ichi Ban and can read and write Japanese hiragana and katakana, and of course speak Japanese fluently.  Her friendly sociable nature is appreciated by breeders and customers alike.  She now has over 10 years of experience driving throughout Niigata and down to Yamanashi Prefecture.  Customer satisfaction is her priority, and her relationships with many breeders ensures customers get the very best deals with some of them.

Maria Capot at Momotaro Auction

Maria Capot atMaria Capot at Momotaro Auction

Nishikigoi.Life – Excellent.  Thank you for your time, I look forward to seeing you next month in France, and then later in the year in Japan.


Paid banner advert - put your ad here for just £50 per month