All Japan Koi Show – February 2019

I’m a little behind blogging about the All Japan Koi Show. Hard to believe that only a month ago I was in Japan. I really love visiting Japan – my family in Hiroshima, wonderful food (especially the rice), everyone is quiet and polite on public transportation, so many interesting things to see and hungry koi everywhere.

All Japan Koi Show (AJKS) runs for three days. On Day 1, two of the three areas are open to the general public. The koi entered into the AJKS are in a hall and being judged throughout Day 1. Only judges and press are allowed in that hall. Something to remember is that towards the end of the day, after judging, if you stay out of the way, it’s possible to enter that hall. A live feed of the judging was sent to a large screen in the vendor hall.

Day 1: The Dream Koi exhibit consisted of vats from many of the breeders with koi that will be going to auction or available for purchase. Around the outer edge were aquariums of exceptionally cute tosai – school projects from around Japan.

Dream Koi exhibit area

Video – Dream Koi Exhibit Area (6:12)

Day1: After wandering around the dream koi area, I went upstairs to see the vendors. There was a display with the history of koi keeping and some of the old sketch books from early breeders. The vendors exhibited things related to koi (naturally) and had items for sale and give aways. There were a lot of oversized wall calendars and I took one but ended up giving it to someone else to take home.

Vendor area with live feed of judging

Something cool from JPD, not available in the United States (yet)
Free stuff from Sakai
Saké tasting

Video – Vendor Area (4:41)

It takes only a few hours to look through the Dream Koi area and the vendor area – so I headed up to the Nezu Art museum and garden. This complex is near the Ginza district of Tokyo and is an oasis of calm in a very busy city. Tokyo actually has many beautiful gardens and I’m sure it would take a lifetime to see them all.

Nezu Museum and Garden, Tokyo
hungry koi in the Nezu Garden

The evening of Day 1, I was fortunate to be invited to a little drinking party. I certainly could not keep up and was amazed at the amount of alcohol everyone seemed to be able to consume. The food was pretty interesting. Some of it was normal fare and then there were a few odd items. Raw meat sashimi is served and I’m thinking “could this be some wagyu? doesn’t really look like wagyu…” Kevin Pham clarified, “horse sashimi, it’s a delicacy.” So I tried a little and drank plenty of beer. When the yakitori came out, I asked Rick Blazo (Blazo Pond Services, CA) “what do you think we are eating?” It had a crunchy texture and we guessed we were eating chicken parts. Have some more beer and all is well.

thank you to Kevin Pham (GenkiKoi) and Ryuichi Yoshida (JPD) for a fun evening with some koi breeders.

Day 2:  Back to the Tokyo Ryutsu Center to see all the koi entered into the AJKS. The exhibit hall is huge and filled with vats and vats of beautiful koi.  All the major winners are located near the main stage making it very easy to see the best of the best.

US ZNA members at the All Japan Koi Show
Major winners area
with the Grand Champion, S Legend (auctioned this past fall for $1.8M)
S Legend

Video Day 2 – AJKS exhibitor vats (6:45)

some of the awards
exhibitor tanks
exhibitor tanks

On Day 3 I took a quick pass through the exhibit hall since I was heading south to Hiroshima in the afternoon.

Video- Day 3, walking around the exhibit hall (6:11)

My cousin and I made a trip out to Iwakuni where the Kintaikyo is located. This bridge was first built in 1673 by the local feudal lord, Kikkawa Hiroyoshi to resist the constant floods of the area. The unusual looking historical bridge consists of five wooden arches with stone piers that cross the Nishiki River. My cousin and I recreated a photo taken of us when we visited the bridge in 1970.

Kintai-Kyo, Iwakuni
hungry koi in Iwakuni

After visiting my family, I headed to Yokohama . It’s a beautiful city at night and I stayed at the Royal Park Hotel located in the Landmark Tower. Saw Mt. Fuji out of my window at sunset and totally fascinated by the Cosmo Clock. It was a nice way to spend my last evening in Japan.

Yokohama at night

I had some time before my flight to visit a garden in Yokohama. The weather was so mild that I was able to stroll around without a jacket. Trees were starting to bloom and there were a number of photographers in the park.

Sankeien, Yokohama
Spring has arrived in Sankeien
hungry koi in Sankeien

It was a quick trip to Japan and I returned to lots of snow and very cold weather.  My koi have been well but I have noticed they are eating less. The water is still around 55 degrees but they just do not have a healthy appetite. Some of them are looking a little fat, so I decided to stop feeding them for a few weeks. I think they must be bored because they seemed interested in swimming around the broom I was using to sweep down some of the algae growth.

My koi may not be as beautiful as the ones I saw at the AJKS, but I can see that many of them are continuing to improve as they grow older. It’s fascinating to watch the beni/hi change on my koi. I like the deeper red and some of them appear to lighten up a bit for a few years. Very satisfying to see them start developing the deeper red after they go through the persimmon stage. One thing I noticed in Japan was that most of the koi were the deeper red and only a few were the persimmon shade.

I’m trying to pay attention to how my koi change body shape. The pond builder and I have noticed that our koi grow like linebackers first and then put on length. All the koi in Japan seem to have a more even look at all stages. Maybe it’s how we feed… The really big koi in Japan seem to have some powerful looking heads as well. I wasn’t sure if I liked that look when I first saw it a few years ago, but it’s growing on me now.

Visiting the All Japan Koi Show was a lot of fun and a great break from the Minnesota winter. Spring is supposed to start this month but the koi are most likely staying in the garage until May. We really need some global warming…

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