I may have kept everyone waiting a little longer than I had promised, so I hope that I can make it well worth the wait and anticipation.
At the moment I am writing this on the plane heading towards the bright California sunshine where I will be staying for a couple of weeks before returning to Minnesota. The quiet drone of the airplane has allowed me some time to gather my thoughts appropriately and organize a culminating entry of what I have discovered about Koi these past two weeks.
The first, as I had already mentioned, is that Koi is not a summation of its parts, but an aggregation of the whole. Regardless of whether a single Koi is completely excelling in one aspect (say, for example, unbelievable body conformation) at the sacrifice of another aspect (such as skin quality), then the value of the fish is considerably lower than that of a Koi who has balanced proportions as well as good skin quality and an appealing pattern.
The second is that Koi is one great waiting game. It is probably closely related to the lottery and good friends with Russian Roulette. No matter how many lottery tickets you buy or how much money you spend, it only increases your odds of winning the jackpot but it doesn’t guarantee you a winning ticket. Sometimes you can pay so much more money for a promising Koi that everyone else wants and you end up shooting yourself in the foot when a seemingly “Ugly Duckling” Koi comes around two years later that magically became a beautiful swan.
The third, and possibly most important, is that one must always remember what you are shopping for. If you are looking to buy a dress for the prom but end up finding something fantastic that you don’t need, then you just end up taking up more space in your closet and decreasing your spending ability. The same goes for Koi; are you looking for that one magnificent Yonsai Gosanke that will just be the gem of your pond or do you want to find a few special Jumbo Tosai that you want to watch grow and study how they develop? Are you looking to compete at shows? What size category do you want to win and which show do you want to enter?
There are so many things to remember, but when you return to your references and bear in mind that you have specific Koi in mind, it greatly helps in thinning out Koi. At the end of the day, everything always boils down to two questions:
1. What are you looking for?
2. Do YOU like what you found?
I recall what my dad would tell people when asked how to pick fish. He would say that it would almost be easier to look at a Koi, take it as a beautiful (granted that the fish already initially appeals to you) and count the good points of the Koi rather than to focus on its bad points. It is always better to see the glass half-full rather than half empty.
This reflection was best illustrated by the selection at Marudo Koi Farm and the events that ensued. Myself, along with all the members of the Hirasawa Family and Devin Swanson took apart the Koi and discussed each one in great detail; and while everyone had a consistent opinion about the pool of Koi, the difference lay in which Koi each person would personally keep for themselves.
If we were judging a Koi show today and these are our five entries, everyone agreed that Koi # 2 would win as Grand Champion. Skin quality was fantastic as there is a luminous luster to the skin. Sumi on the Sanke is also already quite visible, which makes pattern-guessing less of an abstraction. Furthermore, the shiroji of the Koi and a strong , even hi plate made it the Koi most ready for a Koi show.
Koi numbers 1, 4 and 5 have very heavy Beni patterns and deep Maki (literally translated, Maki means “wrap” and refers to how far the beni of the Koi goes down along its side) that this is tosai you would definitely be purchasing for its future potential as then eventually “grow into” their patterns while still maintaining the proportions of the beni to the body. Heavy patterns such as this is typically best suited for larger Koi, and that is why it would be quite interesting to watch them grow.
Koi number 3 has the cleanest and best shiroji (white) out of the bunch and is best suited for people who prefer seeing more white on a Koi than a heavy pattern. Furthermore, the underlying sumi promises to come out just around the edges of the beni, which give is a very good balance of white, black and red.
Sacho and Toshi said that the Koi they liked the most was #4 because of the fantastic body line, the strong, consistent Inazuma pattern and the clean tail tube with just enough shiroji in between the last step pattern and the tail. The sumi placement is also beautifully placed as it is closer to the edges of the beni and is evenly distributed along the Koi’s body.
Tani-san and Keiko-neechan choose Koi #1 because this Koi has the best skin quality in the bunch and the underlying sumi placement promises to come out just right at the edges. Keiko thought the pattern on this Koi is very “cute” and Tani-san liked very much that it is a Maruten Sanke.
Devin, Kasumi-san and Okasan liked Koi #2 the best because they both feel that it already shows promise now and will continue to grow big and beautiful as it both has size and luster to it’s skin.
“And what of the two other Koi that was not selected?” I asked Sacho.
“They are all beautiful Koi, and still very young. They all show potential and perhaps in the future those two will show more potential than others. Today, these three show the best potential. Tomorrow or in a year when they have grown in size, girth or their skin quality develops more, then perhaps they will become the less promising Koi.”
So was it that everyone choose a Sanke? Simple:
“So, what is the favorite variety here are Marudo Koi Farm?” I asked everyone at the dinner table.
“Sanke” was the unanimous response.
It is interesting how everyone went in different directions without discounting or disagreeing with the other’s choices. They all carried the same assessment of each fish, yet choose differently because different things appealed to them. Each person had a different idea of how each Koi would develop and truthfully, it really is anybody’s guess which fish will become the best fish at different points in time.
All of the Koi I have selected for Manila have underlying sumi waiting to come out. This is mainly because water quality in Manila tends to encourage sumi to manifest quite well. It is always important to remember where you will be raising your Koi and understanding the conditions that you will be placing it in so that one would have a good idea of how you can expect your Koi to grow. At the moment, the sumi coming out on the Koi is something that everyone is looking forward to seeing-and is a crucial deciding factor as to which Koi will turn out to be the best.
I have started this entry on a plane to California and I now end it as I sit on my parents dining table in California. I am so grateful to the Hirasawa family for their incredible hospitality and passion for Koi that they have generously shared with me. Marudo Koi Farm is one of the premier sources of Koi in Japan, and they are one of the most professional farms in the area. Their system of packing and shipping Koi is one of the best I have seen and they take special care in making sure that the Koi purchased arrives at its destination in the best possible condition.
I would also like to thank Kenji Tani as well for so graciously accommodating me as I went on my first Koi buying trip sans my father. I very much appreciate his gentle guidance and confidence that he showed me while we were going around the different farms in Japan.
Many thanks as well to my wonderful husband, Devin, for urging me forward and allowing me to be by his side both to help him pick out his own fish for Koi Acres and allowing me to write about it on my blog.
And last, but most certainly not the least, I would like to thank my amazing family, without whom I would never have discovered the wonderful world of Koi. Thank you to my sister and my sister in law who has been a strong support for me while I was away at the office and helped me so much in making sure everything was running smoothly when I couldn’t be around to take care of certain things myself; thank you to my brother who encouraged me and gave me some pointers to remember when choosing Koi; and many many thanks to my parents for trusting me and relentlessly urging me remain confident in my knowledge of Koi. They all have made this trip possible and I appreciate so much the confidence they have in me to go to Japan on my own and experience what it really means to be a professional in this industry. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and I cannot say “thank you” enough. I hope I have made them all proud.
While this trip to Japan is over, it is most certainly not the last as I believe I am slated to return in the Fall for another Koi buying season. I look forward to blogging about it again then! In the meantime, I will be continuously blogging about all the Koi events between then and now. I have a special update tomorrow about a certain world-renowned Koi hobbyists who has already bagged two of the finest Tategoi in America!
Until next time… ~Ja, Mata Kondo! 😉