"Koi Shows and Photos"
Last December, I had the privilege of attending the All Kanto - Tokyo Taikai Koi Show, which was held in Meiji Park, in Tokyo, Japan. This was the first time that I had seen this annual event, and I was impressed by the extremely high level of competition.
Although there were less than 800 koi entered in the competition, the overall quality rivaled even the All Japan Show. I arrived at the show early on Saturday morning and was able to see the contestants as they were entered. One koi in particular caught my eye, a 60 centimeter (24 inch) Maruten Sanke with skin that seemed to glow in the early morning sunlight.
Soon after the judging had commenced, I noticed that the winning koi were being taken into a small white tent that had been set up at the corner of the parking lot. The tent was completely enclosed on all four sides with just one flap which served as both entrance and exit.
Upon entering the tent, I found Mr. S. Baba, the editor of GEKKAN NISHIKIGOI MAGAZINE and his staff, meticulously photographing each and every award winner. The smaller koi were being photographed in a blue measuring tub and the larger koi were placed in a six foot show tank. The inside of the tent was quite dark, without any artificial illumination. When I mentioned this to Mr. Baba, he said "The key to a successful shot is to use a good flash."
Everyone who has seen the magnificent koi photos in GEKKAN NISHIKIGOI MAGAZINE and the annual hard cover edition of All Japan Show, has been impressed by the quality of Mr. Baba's work. Mr. Baba's photos appear with regularity in RINKO, NICHIRIN and KOI USA magazines.
Watching these professionals hard at work, I reflected on the important contribution that koi shows and photography make to the hobby of koi keeping.
In Japan (or Southern California) it is possible for the novice koi keeper to visit a number of koi dealers in the course of the same day, learning something new with each koi that he or she sees. In places where the hobby is still in it's infancy and developing stages, photographs are often the only way one can learn more about the living jewels.
Boarding koi is a widespread practice in Japan and is just starting to catch on here in the United States. Thanks to the breeder's diligence in documenting her development, we are able to follow the progress of this Taisho Sanke in great detail.
The first photo shows a sampling of the fall harvest at Ogata Koi Farm in Fukuoka, seven years ago. Our subject, in the upper left hand corner of the photo, shows beautifully white skin and the hint of black to come. Her most striking feature is undoubtedly the Maruten (round spot) on her forehead, and the pattern that follows.
The following January, at age 8 months, she was purchased by Mr. Sadao Kawamura of Miyagi-ken, who elected to continue to board her at the breeder's facility. Although this photo is less than perfect, we can clearly see that the beni (red) has begun to intensify, and the kiwa (edges of the red) is already becoming crisp. The sumi (black) has also begun to emerge in all the right places.
By that fall, at 18 months of age, it was apparent that Mr. Kawamura was the owner of a very special koi. With the sumi glistening like lacquer and the beni softly glowing, many would consider this Sanke to be fully "finished". Note the appearance of a classic black stripe on the left pectoral fin, and that the sashi (blurred kiwa) at the leading edge the second step in the pattern, has begun to fill in.
By the end of her third year, Mr. Kawamura's Sanke had developed the imposing body confirmation that would eventually carry her to glory. The sumi, which had threatened to become overpowering, shows signs of breaking up, and the sashi at the leading edge of the second step, has filled in completely.
The last photograph that we have of Mr. Kawamura's spectacular Sanke, was taken at the 22nd Tohoku Hokkaido Koi Show by our good friend Mr. S Baba. Now a mature 6 year old measuring 30 inches, she poses majestic and undisputed, Grand Champion.
The Maruten which was once her charm point, is now her crown. Her sumi which once overran her red is no longer bold and boisterous, but has receded to a dignified depth. The addition of a single black stripe to her right pectoral fin, provides a final touch of elegance and perfection.
The contribution that koi shows and photographs make, are vital to the growth and development of this wonderful hobby. Support your local (and National) koi shows, and remember to take lots of pictures of your koi!