In Search of Something Different

You have probably read many times about this and that breeder and what is the latest in-vogue Koi Farm. The problem is, all these articles are always aimed at the go Sanke varieties (Showa, Sanke, Kohaku), Now don’t get me wrong these three varieties are my top trio but after being in the Koi industry for over 15 years this is, as in the words of Tom Jones ‘ its not unusual’! , in fact it‘s the norm, the longer you’ve been doing Koi the more go-sanke you buy!

However, I know there is a big following for the different varieties of Koi as I am always being badgered by people for those special rare ones. So with this in mind I have decided to devote a quite substantial part of my next trip to Japan in search of something different.

There are many less popular Koi that are always highly sought after and if you are looking for one it can be extremely frustrating. You can find high quality Kohaku everywhere you go, but if you want a show quality Gin Rin Ochiba Shigure for instance, you know that even if you are lucky enough to find one, its always going to be sold!

One Koi that is always on many hobbyists wish list, is the Doitsu Hariwake, these Koi are always in huge demand mainly due to their superb bright white and yellow skin. But due to the difficulties in producing large numbers of this variety there is only handful of breeders that specialise in these Koi. This is one particular variety where demand always outstrips supply.

The reasons behind the difficulty in obtaining these Koi is simple. The yellow pigment is extremely difficult to stabilise and fix and therefore has a tendency to fade away or turn to orange. To achieve good patterns, good lustre and the other the factors involved in producing high class metallic Koi such as a clear head etc, is very difficult. If you add the problem of all your work fading away you can see why the success rate is very small. The result of this is that you can count the number of farms that produce these Koi on the fingers of one hand and therefore any really high class specimens are very expensive,

While in central Japan I always visit a Koi Grower that I have been doing business with for a number of years. This man does not breed a single Koi yet owns a Koi farm, retail premises and several mud ponds. He has been buying Koi from all over Japan for decades, either to grow on or sell or both. I asked him when I first met him why he doesn’t breed any Koi, his answer was quite simple, he needed many varieties to sell from his shop and to breed this many would be far too much work, it was better to let the breeding be done by others. The end result is that he has built many different relationships with many breeders all over Japan and therefore has access to many top quality Koi. I always seem to find something a little different there and my last trip in late February this year was no exception. Tucked away in one of his farm ponds was a superb Tancho Showa that had a truly special pattern. As you can see from the picture this is a Koi with this unique pattern that will probably never be seen again!

Even though I favour the Go-Sanke varieties, if a Koi is of high quality and ticks all the right boxes, I can’t not like it. That’s because quality always attracts the eye. There are some Koi that are of no particular variety but nevertheless are of exquisite quality. One thing to remember when buying any Koi of any variety is, the pattern has no bearing on quality. It’s always the “look” of the Koi that makes it good.

Difficulties of breeding aside some more unusual varieties have simply ceased to exist mainly due to the breeding process moving forward. If you look in Koi varieties section of many books, you will see varieties such as Ki Utsuri, Gin Matsuba, Hagiro and Benigoi to name a few. These varieties have simply been bred out; they are the Koi that have been the forbearers of many of the varieties that have taken their place today. A few are still being bred but the overall demand is just not there, so when these older varieties are requested I know that its not going to be easy.

Occasionally however on my travels I do come across the older varieties. Two years ago I stumbled across an old couple in Nagoya who were still breeding Ki Utsuri. This husband and wife team must have been well into the 80’s and it was amazing to see these two people vigorously (well vigorously may be a little optimistic at their age!) breeding and rearing solely Ki Utsuri. The trouble is they only have two parent fish to breed from and due to their age are not really worried about improving the line, so their spawnings are somewhat hit and miss. Some years they have them and some they don’t. Hopefully this year they will, as last years were truly excellent.

It is pretty much like this even with the larger breeders who produce a small number of say a chosen rare variety. Quite a few of the larger breeders dabble from time to time with various combinations and various different types of Koi. After all that’s how the whole business started isn’t it!

At the time of going to print I will be scouring Japan in my search for something different. Going to the other side of the world at this time of year is always difficult as all the obvious sources, such as breeders, have long since sold their best Koi and are too busy preparing for spawning anyway. So this is when experience comes into play and the need for a lot of travelling.

Bringing different Koi into the UK is always good for business because you don’t know if you want something until you see it. I invariably return with many different and wonderful Koi, the only problem is, I never know which ones they are going to be. But if I knew that it wouldn’t keep luring me back.

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