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The 33rd All Japan Koi Show
By Joel Burkard/Pan Intercorp

Anyone who has ever been involved in staging a koi show knows that a lot of work goes into putting on a good show. The All Japan Combined Koi Show, which is held in Tokyo each January, is certainly no exception. This show is put on by the All Japan Nishikigoi Promotion Association (Shinkokai) which boasts a membership of just over 600 koi breeders and dealers in Japan, and 61 overseas members around the world.

The All Japan Show has a budget of a little over $300,000.00 and just manages to break even each year. Initial preparation begins on the Tuesday preceding the show, with a staff of 60 Shinkokai members scrambling to set up over 350 show tanks that will be temporary home to over 3,000 koi.

Grand Champion - Owned by Mr. Yang Le Chin of Taiwan Bred by Sakai of Hiroshima. The office keeps track of the location of every koi in the show by computer backed up by paper slips in a pigeon holled shelf.

Mr. Shin Miya of Miyakoya is in charge of keeping track of the entries and the exact location of every koi in the show at any given time. This awesome responsibility is accomplished with the help of four computers, an office staff of nine, and an antique pigeon-hole shelf as insurance in case of power failure. This fore sight proved invaluable this year when the building experienced an extended power failure due to the nearly six inches of snow that was dumped on Tokyo during the show.

By Thursday all the tanks are filled, with salt and BioTalk* levels confirmed by the four man water quality team, whose job it is to monitor and maintain water quality throughout the duration of the show. This clears the way for benching and entering which continues around the clock as koi continue to arrive from all around Japan.

The entire day on Friday was dedicated to the colossal task of Judging the 3,201 koi that were entered in this year’s show. The day begins at 9:00am with the Judging conference that is attended by the 79 judges and their 42 fish handlers, four hobbyist observers from the ZNA and Rinyukai koi clubs, the Directors of the Shinkokai, members of the press, and translators for the event, including yours truly.

Show tanks as far as the eye can see. Benching begins early Thursday morning and continues around the clock.

Shinkokai Managing Director Mr. Iitsuka addressed all present, welcoming and thanking them for their efforts, while cautioning that judging was a responsibility that demanded their strictest diligence and adherence to the highest principles. From this point on the Judging proceedings are strictly closed to the public. Each of the Judges and participants is required to surrender all cell phones and pagers to the office and communication with the outside world is prohibited until all the Judging is completed.

The first order of the day is the selection of the Grand Champion which is accomplished by a secret ballot with each of the 79 Judges having one vote. This year the initial vote narrowed the field to four contestants; one Sanke and three Kohaku. The second vote awarded the 33rd All Japan Grand Championship to a 92cm Kohaku bred by Sakai of Hiroshima and owned by Mr. Yang Le Chin of Taiwan. This was the first time in the Show’s 33 year history that the Grand Champion was taken by someone other than a Japanese

After selecting the Grand Champion, the judges separated into 14 different teams to undertake the task of Judging the rest of the show. Each team judges several size divisions with the different teams coming together to chose the major awards such as Baby,Young, Adult and Mature Champions.

A freak snow storm dumped upwards of 6 inches on the day the show was open to the public. Shinkokai volunteers work frantically to keep the sidewalk passable. Judges cast their ballot for Grand Champion. Joel Burkard, at the microphone, translating during a judges meeting.

While the judging is going on, the fish handlers move the winners to the winners’ tanks, and there they are moved one by one, to the photography tanks where a total of 6 photographers and 20 photo assistants, take an individual portrait photo of every koi that has taken either a First Place or Honorable Mention Award. These photos are later published in a beautiful commemorative book that features virtually every winner

While all this is going on, 4 volunteers are printing the various signage and award certificates for the show by hand, in the most beautiful and precise Japanese calligraphy Imaginable! These volunteers have to work almost around the clock to make sure that upwards of 400 individual award certificates are ready for the awards ceremony that is held on Sunday.

On Saturday morning at 9:00 am, the doors to the All Japan Show are finally opened to the general public. Needless to say that by this time, most who are involved in staging the Show all pretty much worn out.

Over 400 Award Certificates are written by hand. All the signs for the show are also made by hand.

The All Japan Show in Tokyo is the undisputed pinnacle of the hobby that is Nishikigoi, and the level of competition is the highest in the world. If one is enamoured with koi, they should make every effort to visit this show, if only once in a lifetime. Visiting the All Japan Show will change the way you look at koi forever.

*BioTalk is the proprietary name for a product containing 50,000 ppm of Stabilized Chlorine Dioxide. It is used at the show and by many breeders in Japan, to eliminate bacteria and help prevent the transmission of pathogens.

Posing with the Grand Champion are the breeders Kentaro Sakai (Sales Manager Sakai Fish Farms) and Yoshimichi Sakai (Managing Director Sakai Fish Farms).

Copyright Joel Burkard/Pan Intercorp 2001 All Rights Reserved

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