A 2 minute drive after lunch we visited Marudo Koi Farm, without a doubt one our favourite breeders. Not only are the koi they produce fantastic in every way. The way they are always so welcoming, greeting us with smiles and handshakes. We always feel welcome here. Marudo Koi Farm have been in the game a long time, and are one of the most respected breeders in Japan.
Only a few days ago they took the Grand Champion award at the Nagaoka Koi Show with a 94cm Kohaku, only 7 years old. A truly magnificent koi. We saw her swimming in the pond at Marudo only a day prior to the show, and she thoroughly deserved to win GC.
Marudo’s Daughter made us aware that the mud pond where our large Sanke now Gosai was to be harvested today. A lot of excitement, last year Marudo said she could be over 80cm come harvest time. Here she is at 71cm and Yonsai.
Being greeted by Hisashi Hirasawa (the owner of Marudo Koi Farm)
On speaking with Hisashi Hirasawa, he informed us that our Sanke had unfortunately passed away in the mud pond. A huge sigh by us followed, no words were said. We were devastated. Hisashi-san sincerely apologised, and we could really tell he was equally as devastated as us.
Keeping koi in Japan doesn’t always go to plan, especially when they are placed in mud ponds for the best part of 6 months of the year. So many factors must be taken into account when leaving koi in the mud ponds. There are far more things to go wrong in the mud ponds, than in a concrete growing pond. We knew the risk, and unfortunately for us our koi was no longer.
Hisashi-san continued to apologise over and over again. We knew he felt responsible for the loss, but we told him that we understand it can happen, it wasn’t his fault by any means. As we all know koi can be extremely hardy at times, other times the smallest of things can be life threatening.
At this point, we all took 10 minutes to take in what had happened. Trying to think how we can mediate the situation and move forward. We had no answers. The Queni camp wasn’t feeling too joyful now.
We certainly weren’t expecting what happened next that’s for sure. Hisashi-san again expressed his condolences and that he had come up with a Plan B. He said, follow me.
We jumped in the car, and followed him. We didn’t know what was going on, or what he had in mind. 15 very long anticipating minutes later we arrived at a koi house. We had driven past this koi house a few times, yet had never been inside. No signs, windows covered up, alarm systems on the koi house, and a locked door. We didn’t really know who even owned this koi house previously.
Hisashi-san unlocked the door and in we went. He asked us not to take photos of the koi. That’s when we knew the koi in here were his absolute best. The koi that are tucked away that few people ever see.
A pond full of his true Nisai Tategoi. Koi after koi swam past, perfect body, perfect skin, perfect patterns. A few dozen koi that you just couldn’t fault in any way.
Hisashi-san told us that we could pick ANY koi from this pond. Our eyes lit up. Now with huge smiles on our faces. We all laughed and joked. We were now saying thank you ! Shaking hands, we were all back on good terms, and quite moved by his kind gesture. We spent a while gazing over the pond. There were numerous koi that initially we would have happily swapped for the koi we lost. However, myself and Chris spoke outside briefly and discussed what we could do and how. Our Gosai Sanke that died was effectively 3 years ahead of any of these Nisai we were looking at. To swap a rather special 5 year old koi of 80cm ish. For a 50-55cm Nisai, this Nisai would have had to be ridiculously special. Especially to get to the same value as to what the Sanke was worth. Alas, these koi were perfect. But not quite perfect enough. We felt embarrassed and ashamed to turn down koi like this.
Hisashi-san knew we had feelings about the Nisai, and he understood that one Nisai wasn’t quite enough to make up for the loss of the Sanke.
A few moments thinking, Hisashi-san made us aware that one of his top Sansai ponds was being currently being harvested and they should arrive back to koi house within 10 minutes. He mentioned that there were a few customers koi, but also a number of special koi that were not available as Nisai.
Onto Plan C, a pick from the Sansai harvest! The adrenaline started to kick in.
Last Autumn we attended one of Marudo’s Sansai harvests which was quite a spectacle. We knew potentially what the Sansai would be like coming out of the mud pond.
Arriving back at the koi house, koi were being lifted from the tanks on the back of the truck. First placed into a bowl, photographed, then into a pond. The koi house at this point was crammed full of people. Word had certainly got out that this harvest was taking place. It was a bit of a free for all. People peering into the holding tanks, trying any which way to get a view of the koi.
Koi after koi were unloaded, these Sansai looked particularly big and of serious quality, mostly in excess of 65cm. Seriously top class Sanke after Sanke, Kohaku after Kohaku were placed in the bowl.
Then all of a sudden. The one.
Quickly grabbing Hisashi-san’s attention through the crowd of people, we expressed our interest in one of the koi. Thankfully for us, it was available.
That was that! Decision made.
Marudo Koi farm continues to be one of the best, not only in producing koi, but also customer service!
Keeping koi in Japan comes with it’s risks. There’s no doubt about it. When it goes well it’s the best feeling in the world. When it goes badly, it’s devastating. Not only the monetary value of a particular koi, but the sentimental value you have built up for the koi. The excitement that builds up knowing you (should) be seeing the koi very soon.
When koi are left in mud ponds, generally speaking it is at the owners own risk i.e. the breeder takes no responsibility. Some farms offer you replacements, some farms offer you your money back, some farms say tough luck. More often than not replacements never live up to the quality and potential of the koi that was lost in the first place. It’s hard for a koi to simply “replace” another. They are all unique. All have their pros and cons.
Thankfully our relationship with Marudo is very strong, more so probably than any other breeder. The events that occurred have reinforced our relationship more so and really shows the gratefulness of both parties. We were deeply moved by Marudo’s offer, and can’t thank him and his team enough.
It’s extremely rare for this to happen with effectively a replacement koi, but the general feeling amongst us was that this was a much better koi than the Sanke anyway! Only 2cm behind what the Sanke was, but a whole year younger!
No words can explain how thankful we are for Marudo’s kind gesture.
Sansai (30 months old)