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"Mail order Champion"
By Joel Burkard/Pan Intercorp

Here in the United States, where establishments that carry quality koi are few and far between, the koi enthusiast often has very limited choices for koi procurement. The most logical solution to this dilemma is to order koi through the mail, by browsing through magazine advertisements or surfing the Internet.

One would assume that would not be the case in Japan, but Sadao Kawamura claims that with his busy schedule, mail order has been the source of most of his koi purchases. Mr. Kawamura finds the most enjoyment in purchasing young koi and watching them develop in his care, a true connoisseur of tategoi.

To facilitate his hobby, Mr. Kawamura has several mud ponds in addition to a large concrete finishing pond which is enclosed in a greenhouse. "I have a greater success rate when I purchase two year old koi," says Kawamura, "but more often than not, I am seduced by the potential of a yearling that I cannot resist."

When studying photos of koi that are offered for sale, Mr. Kawamura confesses to using a magnifying glass to ferret out hints of hidden sumi (black) and potential yet-to-emerge patterns.

Using this method, Mr.Kawakami purchased this Showa as a 14 inch two year old from Daie Yorijyo in Niigata. The koi had been advertised for sale in a Japanese magazine, and at first glance seemed to have little or no sumi other than the black half moon by the eye. Careful inspection, however, revealed a checkerboard pattern of kakure sumi (hidden black) that held the promise of an intriguing future.

Upon receiving his purchase, Mr. Kawakami put the Showa into one of his mud ponds to be grown out. Little change was seen in the amount of black showing until the koi was moved into the concrete finishing pond where the sumi began to emerge rapidly.

Young Showa 2 years old 14 inches Adult Showa Best in size All Japan Show

Mr. Kawakami entered his Showa in several hobbyist koi shows in 1998, but it never placed higher than Runner Up. Dismayed at the various judges indifference to a koi that he thought was exceptional, Mr. Kawakami had all but decided not to enter it in any more shows.

Fortunately for all, a dealer who happened to stop by and see the koi convinced Mr. Kawakami to enter it in the 31st All Japan Show in January of 1999. Much to his surprise, it not only took 1st Place Showa Size 55 and Best in Size 55, but it also beat two much larger koi to win the Kokugyo Prize of Adult Champion.

Pictured here in all it's splendor, this Showa has everything that is sought after in this variety and more:

  • Moto Guro: the strong sumi (black) at the base of the pectoral fins
  • Menware: the bold slash of sumi between the eyes
  • Ichimatsu Moyo: literally meaning "checkerboard pattern" of alternating color.
  • Kakure Sumi: "hidden black" which promises of an even more stunning pattern waiting to emerge.

Mr. Kawakami's experience shows us that not only is it possible to select potential world class tategoi from photos, but that mail order koi can be the answer to a koi keeper's dreams. The true experience of tategoi lies in the journey to development. Enjoy the trip!


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