Day V – Mud Pond Magic

A late night getting the website up to date and previous blog posts published meant little sleep. Even more so with an early morning as we make our way to a Hoshikin Nisai harvest. Meeting Katsuyuki-san at the farm, we were greeted by Katsuyuki-san and his head staff Tomoya-san. We really get along with these guys at Hoshikin and always buy here. 

Driving up into the mountains, we soon recognised where we were. This time last year we harvested a Nisai pond with Hoshikin, today was to be the mud pond next to one we harvested last year. Considerably larger, the morning fog made for terrible visibility. You could barely make out the far end of the pond.

Pulling the waders on, it was time to lend a hand. It was at this point I realised this is one of Hoshikins best Nisai ponds. Fantastic Koi came out, many of which I recognised from Spring as Tosai. One in particular I remembered very well that we came very close to buying, it’s a shame we didn’t buy it as Tosai as it was looking phenomenal, nearly 60cm this Koi would now fetch an even more extortionate price! Having a joke with Katsuyuki-san we told him this was our fish that we bought as Tosai. He laughed and said No it’s not! Laughing all round, we proceeded to handle the fish into the pool, then we bagged the Koi, while Tomoya-san and staff walked up the bank and placed the koi into the transport tank. 

Having to pull the net around the pond 3 times in total, unfortunately there were 6 Koi missing out of the 45 he had placed in there. The more Katsyuki-san thought about it, he started to doubt himself and suggested he may have miscounted when they went in as Tosai, the Japanese never fail to entertain!

All loaded up and a quick clean of equipment, we hit the gravel track back top the main road and to the koi house we went. 

On arriving back to the koi house, Katsuyuki transferred the Koi from the transport tank into a bowl. Grading and sexing the Koi as he went, in the sock each one went and Katsyuki pointed to which pond it should go in. Three female ponds of varying quality and a male pond, one bowl was kept aside for the best ones. A handful of the best ones were certainly worth considering. We had a feeling most of these would be out reach for U.K. customers. Asking prices for each Koi, some we had to reject immediately due to price, even with a bit of price negotiation we knew they’d still be too much for the U.K market. Back in the transport tank they went ready to be taken to his tategoi house. 

Keeping a few in the bowl, we nailed it down to the one Koi we hoped to come away with from the harvest. Finalising the Kohaku of choice, I managed to get one decent photo out of far too many! She wasn’t playing ball in the bowl, so a video wasn’t possible unfortunately.

The Showa we had reserved a few days ago made it’s way into the bowl and we struck a deal on the pair. The Showa was even better than I remember, very pleased to have sourced this. 

A great morning had at Hoshikin, thanks to Katsyuki-san, Tomoya-san and the other staff members for making it another fantastic experience. Here are some shots from the day, as well as the two Koi acquired.

(harvest photos taken by Chris Marsh and myself)


On from Hoshikin we walked across the road (literally) to Dainichi Koi Farm. With the Kohaku and Shiro purchased on our first day in Japan we went back to see if any new Koi had been harvested. Firstly to try and make up the shipping box alongside the Shiro, and to see if there was anything else of interest. Finding it very hard to select from the female pond, the male pond showed more promise, albeit the best ones still wouldn’t be cheap. Selecting 5 fish out, mostly Tancho, Gin Rin Tancho and Kohaku we looked closely at each one and requested a price from Shigeru. Prices quoted, we could then see what was worth the price, and what would be a difficult sell at home. Not wanting to get carried away here, we selected 2 out of the final 5 and agreed on a price. 

An awesome Tancho Kohaku, big body, great spot, great colour and a nice clean body. The other, a Kohaku that had very high class skin quality, fukurin already starting to make an appearance with a balanced yet eye catching pattern. 

Thanking Shigeru and his staff, we made our way into the mountains.  

Otsuka was in the cross-hairs as we honed in on some of his recently harvested Aka Matsuba. Otsuka-san kindly put aside a number of Matsuba for me to consider. He knew I was after one for a customer order as well as another high class one for the shop. Already having picked out an unsexed one a few days ago, the next ones would be female and in a higher price bracket.

Choosing five Matsubas, they all went into the bowl. Spending a minute or two inspecting each one closely, three made the cut. All three were slightly different, yet all posed excellent attributes. When picking koi like this, I find scale formation extremely important. Of course we need to look for body and skin but the scale formation on varieties like Matsuba, Asagi and other single coloured Koi I really have to be fussy.

First Matsuba having a big body, beautiful scale formation, large head and clean matsubamon.
The second, lighter in colour and Otsuka-san explained that if we didn’t have this one, it would be one of his tategoi for next year. Perfect scale formation which also possessed hints of kado-gin developing, this could be very interesting in future. The third Matsuba was an all round package, similar to the first but with slightly less body.



Very pleased with the selections, we had gone Matsuba crazy! 

Photos and videos were next, I still needed to get photos and videos for the Koi we purchased here a few days ago. We grabbed a few bowls, umbrella and means of measuring and left Otsuka-san to serve other customer. Having settled into the sold pond, they all looked in great nick. One by one, photos and videos were taken.




Finishing up the day at Marusei Koi Farm, another customer request was on the cards. Marusei as you know is probably the largest farm in Japan. With over 500 mud ponds, this place is a mass factory. Many different varieties, prices can start from £100 for Nisai, all the way up to tends of thousands of pounds, and more! On the hunt for a rather unique request, a Kin Matsuba. Likewise with the Aka Matsuba’s at Otsuka scale formation, colour and body were all very important. Adding metallic in the mix, it had to be bright and luminous. 


In one of the large long ponds there must have been 80 or so to choose from. Among hundreds of other Koi. Big koi too! Some up to 75cm in this pond. Chasing a fish around in ponds like these isn’t much fun and can be extremely difficult to catch the one you want. With the two of us, we tried out best to single out Kin Matsubas in the pond to get a better look at them. Going up and down the pond dozens of times, I found one that met the criteria. 99% of others had scales missing, dirty heads, white fins and/or poor bodies. Netting the one Kin Matsuba, job done! To make this koi within our customers budget we had to choose one more Koi from the pond in order to get the box price sensible. A big and bright Yamabuki Ogon went in the bowl, 66cm and Yonsai. It had a long slender body which is quite typical of Marusei Yamabuki, yet the scale formation was good, colour good and the frame on the fish bodes well for future growth. This should get very big !

Tomorrow we head to see Yamazaki, the happiest man in Niigata! Plus other farms in the area.

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