The secretive nature of the Japanese koi industry strangely becomes a part of what lures you back time after time. The challenge of trying to un-earth these secrets in order to gain a greater understanding of nishikigoi can quickly become an obsession.
I have a fond memory of my first experience finding a secret pond containing a breeders nisai tategoi. It was whilst visiting Hiroi Masaki of Koguriyama village back in 2003 that I first learned the extent that breeders will go to keep such fish out of sight.
At the side of the road where most people would normally park before walking down to the nisai house or up to the tosai and older koi was a double garage. On this particular visit we’d had a great time selecting koi and being a very eager to learn 13 year old I was always asking a lot of questions. I wanted to know if it would be possible to see his nisai tategoi to which, we began walking back up the hill to the car. Masaki San then reached for his keys, unlocked the garage and slowly lifted up the door, I was gobsmacked.
Inside was a make shift pond; timbers created a wall at the front then a tarpaulin sheet which was taped to the internal walls of the garage was used as a liner. A make shift internal filter was in the corner, full of oyster shells and operated by a pipe pump. Lastly and probably most importantly there was a permeant trickle of fresh water. This pond contained around 100 of his best nisai and demonstrated two things; First of all how simply koi can be kept and secondly, how far a breeder will go to keep his tategoi out of sight.
Masaki was a great farm mainly know for Shiro Utsuri and Asagi, he retired a number of years ago due to ill health. Unfortunately with no sons to take over the family business that was the end of the farm. The pond in the garage is a great memory and the first of many secrets that I would uncover in the years that followed.