As detailed before, Shimizu-san breeds his own Koi –

This year he spawned 6 sets, 3 Sanke and 1 each of Showa, Kohaku and Goshiki.  That production level puts him equal to many of the smaller breeders in Niigata.  Last year he produced from 10 sets, that put’s him up with many household names you see on this blog!

Shimizu-san’s objective of breeding Koi is simple, he wants to produce the best Koi he possibly can, and take the highest prizes he possibly can.  He is in the incredibly fortunate position of not needing to keep volumes of Koi to balance the books, he wants to keep just the best, it’s his hobby.  Anyone jealous?

Our visit was timed to co-incide with a group of fellow hobbyists visiting to have a ‘culling day’.  Because of the hot humid weather Shimizu-san had cancelled that the day before we arrived, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed, we had a whole day to kill before travelling the 500km back to Niigata.

We viewed the concrete ponds – – and then visited the mudponds – – this is Shimizu-san’s daily routine.  We wandered around and Shimizu-san fired up the autofeeders on ‘manual’ to check the fry.  Whilst myself and Rene were at one end of the mudponds looking for a good vantage point to photograph them some people arrived.  Minutes later Shimizu-san had donned waders, black dress trousers and shirt beneath, and was wading into a pond with drag net.  Perhaps the cull was back on?

We headed to the pond being netted, still a little none the wiser as to what was happening.  One of the things you’ll find in Japan is that things go on around you all the time and you’re not quite sure why.  Lot’s of things happen like clockwork.  Other times ‘the boss’ knows what is happening and others seemingly follow.

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It transpired that someone was coming to collect a couple of bags of fry, this pond contained some of Shimizu-san’s Sanke rejects.  It was interesting, many of what were netted would have been around Shousuke-san’s edamame had I been at Shintaro culling, others would have gone back to the mud pond, no question.

At 11am we went for lunch!

After the culling had been cancelled Rene’s prediction for the day turned out to be exactly right, sashimi restaurant for lunch, go back feed the Koi, have a nap, go to yakiniku (Korean BBQ) followed by some beers and karaoke in a snack bar.

Now, neither sashimi nor yakiniku fill me with joy it has to be said however I’m under instruction from Yoshi that I need to indulge more in the Japanese cuisine and the experience that is having a Japanese meal together.

During this meal, which was to last 5 hours, and I ate more raw fish than I’d ever eaten in the rest of my visits to Japan!  It was a fascinating 5 hours, coupled to the 2 in the yakiniku in the evening.

Below I’ll share some more info that was gleaned from Shimizu-san.

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About Shimizu-san

I don’t know for sure but Shimizu-san is, I guess, in his early 60’s.  This put’s him a whole generation behind the likes of Masao Kato or Nobuo Takigawa.

He first discovered Nishikigoi around 35 years ago, serious boom time for the industry, purchasing Koi from local breeders/dealers.

His first visit to Niigata was 30 years ago, ever since he’s been there multiple times each year.  Presently he visits around 6 times per year, staying for the whole of October!  Apparently there are 2 rooms in Izumiya Ryokan that have western style beds as opposed to tatami mats and futons.  They are his private rooms!  I know which rooms I’ll be requesting should I ever stay there!

In Japan it is normal that the eldest son inherits the family business.  Many will be familiar with the story of Toshio Sakai being the younger brother and heading off to Isawa to create his own fortune.  Shimizu-san likewise was the younger brother, he started his own constuction company aged 25. It’s success is obvious.

He is now effectively retired (although visits the company daily) and Koi, along with his bonsai, is his life.

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There is no question that Shimizu-san is Nishikigoi to the core, he entered the hobby when it was perhaps a status thing.  Today he lives and breathes them in a way few others do.

About Niigata 

Shimizu-san has a mountainside in Shiga Prefecture with a mud pond complex, he could effectively extend this to limitless size should he desire I guess.  But, why does he have 4 mud ponds in Niigata, why does he go to the effort of moving 100 or so Koi 500km every spring and autumn, 90% of which are now actually Koi he has produced himself?!?

His answer was simple, ‘water and mud!’.  He is in no doubt that the mountains of ‘Yamakoshi’ offer enormous benefits to Koi.  This echoed exactly what Torazo had said to me when we released tosai (ake-nisai) a few months back.  Many people probably don’t realise the number of Koi that are transported to Niigata from all over Japan in order that they can spend the summer in mud ponds.

Shimizu-san’s collection of Koi consists of Koi that were either produced in Niigata or from his own parents, most of which are Niigata Koi.  To him Niigata is a special, he doesn’t want to go and buy elsewhere, Niigata has been his hunting ground for 30 years.

Connections with Kanno Koi Farm

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It was back in November 2007 when early one morning myself, Alan Archer and his father David headed to the breakfast spot with our 7-11 breakfast.  As we reached it we could see a kei truck around a mud pond that was above us.  We headed to see what was happening.  This was my first encounter with Kanno Koi Farm, or Hirasawa as the sign on the old house actually states.  Hiroshi Hirasawa and his son were netting a pond of nisai Goshiki and they duly invited us back to their Koi house in Mushigame.

Those Goshiki seriously impressed me, I stated that they were perhaps the best Goshiki in Niigata.  Never had I ever heard of Kanno Koi Farm.  Since we’ve met a number of times, at shows, Maruju, Ikarashi, or around the mudponds in Mushigame.

You may be wondering where this is heading!  Kanno actually look after Shimizu-san’s Niigata mud ponds.  I mentioned that Shimizu-san bred Goshiki, they are from Kanno lines.

Shimizu-san told us a story about how he and Hirasawa-san had visited Masao Kato in order to buy several Koi, one being a Shintaro Sanke.  On visiting Hirasawa-san was struck by a large Goshiki.  That Koi was purchased and became a vital part of Kanno’s oyagoi, and also the oyagoi of Matsunosuke and Ikarashi Kazuto Goshiki.

Who can produce an All Japan Grand Champion in Niigata?

With the 2010 show being held in Niigata – – I think there are lots of people hoping that a Koi bred in Niigata will take the GC prize.

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I had a conversation a few weeks ago which basically ended with, ‘maybe Dainichi will get lucky’.  I was interested to know Shimizu-san’s thoughts on where a possible All Japan GC could come from these days in Niigata.  He was somewhat more positive.  He suggested that Marudo (no surprise), Marusei, Isa, were all capable of producing a Koi that could win.  I don’t think his list was exhaustive, they were just examples.


I’ve been writing this post over several days, they were so many things discussed, I’ll probably update over the next day or so, and also add some pics of interest.

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