I’ll start by saying that the title of this post might be a little misleading, as this story is about a dream that became a reality. As you reach the end of this post, however, I think you will agree that ‘Dream Showa’ is indeed a fitting title, as the Koi I am about to talk about is one that many Koi keepers aspire to add to their collection.
The story began back in 2011, during the last year of running my retail operation. Back then, my very close friend Kristyan told me he wanted something special for his pond. At the time, he already had a stunning collection of Koi, so for him to say he wants something special got me pretty excited. Having only been in the hobby for a couple of years at this point, and due to the nature of our relationship, he was going to put his trust in me entirely and the only criteria he had was:
- It must be something special with serious potential to become a top-quality big fish.
- It must stay within the budget (We’ve all said that before).
- Ideally, he would like something from Nishikigoi Niigata Direct (NND).
Having such loose criteria makes it so much easier to find the right Koi, but it does also add a lot more pressure. I knew in this instance Kristyan would be completely guided by me on what to go with. Unafraid of the task in front of me, I set about finding the fish.
The Right Fish
NND was a criteria because it was a farm that I had a great deal of experience with, due to my history there. Plus, Kristyan has enjoyed amazing results in his own pond with fish from there.. This would only work, however, if they had the right fish, which I was confident they would. At the time of receiving the request for the fish, I had already returned back from Japan. I put together an email to Oomo San with the background story, what I needed and asked if he had anything of interest. After a couple of days, he eventually came back to me and said he had some great options and he would arrange a video to be sent of three fish that he had in mind. Just to cover it off, I had also asked to see options from a couple of other breeders, so the waiting game began.
Over the next few days I remember vividly waking up early every day, excited to see if I had received any email from Japan. Eventually, I woke one morning to see the email with a video link and the details of each fish. I skipped the details and went straight for the link – and as it loaded I saw the frame at the start of the video with a fish that looked very good. That said, I quickly became a little disappointed because for the budget we had I knew it wasn’t good enough. So, I hit play on the video and when, 10 seconds in, I was hit with a blast of amazing shiroji I knew my disappointment had been a little premature. I also instantly knew that this was the Koi and nothing would top it – very special indeed.
Bang on Budget
After seeing the Koi swimming around, my excitement at just how good it was became uncontainable; it put a giant tick in all the boxes and despite being very early in the morning I got straight on the phone to Kristyan. He answered the phone to be met with “It’s the one, it’s the one, I can’t believe how good it is, nothing will come close to it”. It must have been like talking to a kid at Christmas and the excitement must have been so much that he said straight away: “Tell Fujio I’ll have it”. At this point I hadn’t even sent him the video or checked the price. When he eventually got me off the phone, I sent the video over and confirmed that it was bang on budget.
When I called him shortly after the video was sent, it’s fair to say that he was delighted but I certainly wasn’t met with quite the same level of excitement. Kristyan did admit to me much later on when the Koi was swimming around in his pond that at the time he liked it, hence buying it. But he didn’t understand why I was so excited. I see now that was a sentiment that would have been shared by many, so I think it’s time for an explanation.
Incredible Depth and Shine
Oomo Showa have always fascinated me; the lineage which was originally based on a Takeda female and Dainichi male produced a very unique style. There seemed to be a strong affiliation with Kindai Showa and a lot of the offspring were this kind of style; the main female parent was a stunning Kindai Showa with a huge bone structure. The male from Dainichi had the most stunning beni with incredible depth and shine. It was a great combination that was in service for quite some time. Many of the bold characteristics of each parent Koi were often visible in the offspring and it made the Koi very desirable.
The Koi in question was nisai; the first time that I saw it and measured 52cm, from the moment that it was revealed on the video it just screamed quality. First and foremost, the shiroji was so thick and pure, although the Koi was only 18 months old at the time it had a youthfulness, the type of white skin that would retain this youthfulness for life.
Whenever I look at a Koi it’s the body that immediately hits me, no koi can be deemed high quality if the body is no good. You have a variety of body types which of course vary from koi to koi; certain bloodlines and varieties can more consistently produce body specific traits. The body form of Showa is known to be shorter and more powerful in form than Kohaku and Sanke – and in the past this has inhibit the overall size they can achieve. One thing that instantly impressed me with this Showa was the lack of that type of body. Instead its body was still powerful, with great overall length stemming from a strong head. Oomo Showa have a good track record for achieving jumbo sizes, but I knew with this type of body that this one would achieve it quickly and easily.
One of the most unpredictable parts of the Showa was the pattern and what the finished fish would look like. In instances such as this you just have to look at the qualities in front of you and allow time to do its thing. The type of sumi this Koi has is pretty common in Oomo Showa and I had a lot of experience with it. This sumi tends to sit in the top of the skin and can develop very quickly; in my experience it also develops reliably. As it breaks through the surface of the skin, it forms in small shimi-like parts before consolidating into blocks. As for the beni pattern, the informal, flowery style was balanced across the body, not a pattern that would work for a Kohaku but great for a Showa.
Time and Good Housekeeping
At this point the only assurances I could give Kristyan were that all the raw elements are there and knowing this type of sumi I was extremely confident that it would come up and completely consolidate. All she needed – as with any high potential young Koi – was time and good keeping techniques.
Once the Koi was purchased, it was now left down to the breeder to raise her for the next season. NND and especially Oomo San pay great attention to all of the Koi in their care, so I didn’t have any concerns in that regard. It is livestock, however, so you do need to be prepared for the worst to happen. By the following summer, she was ready to be released to the mud pond and she would be going to the champion mud pond, the finest pond that NND have in the mountains of Yomogihira. I had looked after this pond on each of the trips I had been working in Japan; each and every time I went there to observe the feeding I got lost in a trance admiring the inhabitants. It was now even more exciting, having a vested interest in one of the tenants.
Autumn came along, and I was unable to make it to Japan that year but Kristyan and I waited anxiously to hear the results of the harvest. When the picture eventually came through, it was a super result: 52cm to 65cm and super body and sumi development. In fact, the sumi development was just what I had expected to see and gave me further confidence that it would eventually get to where I anticipated. Furthermore, seeing the body line 12 months on I knew it was in for another good year of growth and advised Kristyan that it would be best to leave it in Japan. With all involved agreeing, the plan was set.
The following year just before she was due to be released to the mud pond, we received a video and she really looked in top condition; the skin was glowing and the sumi has progressed even further in the concrete pond. Again, she was being returned to champion mud pond at NND, where we hoped the success would be repeated.
The following autumn came around again and she was harvested as a 76cm yonsai – a growth of 11cm which from sansai to yonsai is impressive. The body volume had again increased considerably and she had now reached a point where it was time to ship her home. We knew that the growth was likely to slow considerably at this point, as Kristyan’s pond wasn’t huge. That said, it would provide excellent conditions to keep her in top condition and create the finished article.
After the Showa landed in the UK, she settled straight into her new home and very quickly asserted her authority as the Queen of the pond, especially at feeding time. Over the next season, her growth rate dropped as expected, but the magic really started to happen on the sumi front. A serious transformation, helped in part by the age of the Koi and the water in the UK. The sumi has continued to progress and still, it gets better and better each year
Now residing in a new home – since Kristyan had to close down his pond – I am lucky that I still keep tabs on her often. In the new 14,000 gallons lagoon, a few extra centimetres might be gained. Now at nine years old and 80cm, the skin condition is just as good as it was when she was sansai, which is testament to the quality of the bloodline. After recently seeing her at close quarters, there are still no signs of her being finished yet; the beni still has more to give and, like I said previously, the sumi keeps on getting better.
In recent years, I have sold Koi considerably more expensive than this one – and without doubt, one even better than this. One thing is for sure this is still the one that remains my all-time favourite. Perhaps because it was a dream that came true.