I don’t remember a time when koi weren’t a part of my life – and since 2001,I have been mastering the art of Nishikigoi. The opportunities that I have been presented with enabled me to gain a great deal of experience and I love nothing more than sharing what I’ve learned with others.
My journey began when I was 10 years old, when I took one of my Dad’s koi books and declared that I would learn the varieties and their names within the year – the rest is now history. From that moment, I became consumed by these fascinating creatures and it was soon clear to me, even at a young age, that this was something I wanted to do every single day!
It came in handy that my parents owned an aquatics store, which sold everything from goldfish to marine fish and specialised in Koi. The shop was a great place to grow up and it wasn’t long before I was there every weekend and most of my school holidays, before eventually beginning full-time employment aged 16. There were countless learning opportunities during my time at Walesby Aquatics, thanks to the diverse range of customers and fish species, all presenting different challenges to overcome. I still believe there is no better way to master a trade than being hands-on and learning from your mistakes, in order to gain a serious level of knowledge and understanding.
At the root of everything that I do is a desire to be the best and I very quickly set my sights on Japan, believing that it would be the key to gaining the level of knowledge and insight that I wanted. In 2002, I was lucky enough to make my first trip to Niigata and that was to be a game changer in more ways than one. The experience was one that I will never forget and also the inspiration for the next part of my journey.
Having returned home mesmerised by what I had seen in Niigata, my focus was soon on some of the frustrations I had on the trip – and feeling that too many barriers had been put in place with the agent. I hadn’t been as close to the breeders as I wanted to be and the whole trip was focused around buying and the more commercial activities. I wanted more, to learn and be accepted into the Koi community in Japan and I had an idea.
Shortly after that trip I contacted Fujio Oomo, who at the time was an up and coming Showa breeder and renowned Koi guide. I typed out a long email explaining the situation and what I would like to achieve…and off it went. A few days later I received a response from Oomo San, explaining that he was not currently looking for any more clients, but he liked my story and invited us to his farm. The trip happened the following year in 2003 and it was the beginning of something special.
During that visit to Japan in 2003 I instantly hit it off with Oomo San, who was driven slightly insane by the amount of questions I had to ask. Fortunately, rather than running a mile to save himself the headache, he was warmed by my passion and eager to share the story of a 13-year-old koi kichi child who had come to Japan eager to learn about nishikigoi. With his help I was able to lay the groundwork for many great friendships with breeders, who are still to this day great mentors for me.
Amongst the many things Oomo San did for me over the years – and by far and away the biggest – was when he offered me the chance to go and live at his home. I had dreamed of being able to work on a Japanese koi farm during the summer and he had presented the opportunity. So, as soon as I turned 16 and left school after just a couple of months at work, I boarded a plane to Niigata all alone for what would be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. On that trip I stayed at Oomo Koi Farm, Marusho Koi Farm and Nogami Koi Farm. I also had spent some time working with Yagenji and Kaneko. The insight that I gained changed my outlook on Koi completely and many of the skills I learned still play a massive part in my approach to koi keeping today. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit during the summer for a further 2 years after that initial trip, by which time I was ready to embark on my next challenge.
With a lot of experience already under my belt, in 2010 I opened Koi Growers Ltd – to follow my dream of supplying exclusively high-class Koi in the UK. Unfortunately, this was only to last 2 years, as I quickly realised that building a successful business based solely around a high-end product like this would struggle, so I turned to another idea that I had. It was also around this time that my Dad was looking for a change and had decided to close down the retail store, so together we would start Koi Wholesale Ltd.
Since its conception in 2011, the company has grown into one of the largest specialist koi suppliers in the country and continues to grow each year. A few years ago, I gained full control of the company and have continued to push it to new heights ever since.
Operating from one of the largest facilities in the UK, I get to indulge my passion every day and continue to further my understanding of Nishikigoi. It’s amazing being involved with so many other talented people in the industry and collaborating on some great projects.
I hope to use this blog to share my experiences with you – past and present – to help you learn and further your knowledge as a koi keeper. By giving you an insight into my life in the industry, it will hopefully inspire more people to consider it as a future job prospect or business.