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"A Visit With Mano"
By Rich and Lisa Street

A year ago we visited Mr. Mano's fish farm in Niigata, Japan. Mr. Mano (known as Mano-san) is the breeder of the famous Tomezo bloodline of kohaku. The fish were fresh from the mud ponds and the holding tank waters were yellow from medicinal treatment. Their shapes were nice and, even with the yellow tinge of the water, you could guess the red was thick on the pond of two year olds.

The excitement came as the first fish was panned in a tub. The red was like lacquer and the white was brighter than snow. I had never seen such fish. They were truly amazing. Unfortunately, the fish we selected was beyond our budget. I took photos just to prove that such fish existed and left depressed, but started saving with hopes of someday visiting Mano-san again.

Mano Kohaku Laquer Red & Snow white Mano Kohaku 5 year old

Almost a year later Mano-san came to the United States to be one of the judges at our annual koi show. Lisa and I got to speak with him through Joel Burkard's translations. We talked of our visit and our love of his fish. We shared the photo of the fish we liked with him and he said that he had kept the fish to grow on for another year and it should be up this fall. He invited us to come visit and see the fish as a three year old. He said he would hold it and not sell it to anyone else, until we had a chance to see it. I still wasn't sure I could afford it, but Lisa and I agreed it would be fun to go look again.

Off we went to Japan in October. We were to have dinner with Mano-san at the end of our first full day. Our first morning in Niigata we visited other breeders and saw a fish that we had left with a different breeder last year to grow on. It had put on 6 inches! The excitement was still building at what might be at Mano's. We had to wait until after lunch before arriving at Mano-san's. There was a breeder's koi show next door to his fish farm. As some of the others headed for the show, Lisa and I stormed the ponds looking for "the fish." We found it quickly and had it panned.

Rich & Lisa Street Choosing Kohaku The Streets, Mr. Mano, and his father

It was beautiful and had grown considerably. I asked for some time to think.

Nishikigoi Monthly, a Japanese publication, had done an article about Mano-san and his Tomezo bloodline in its' September issue (pp. 16-31). Mano-san proudly showed off the magazine and pointed to some of the fish in his ponds that were featured in the article. We learned about the bloodline and got to see different generations. As we looked at the pond of bigger fish we saw another fish we liked. We were in real trouble! We had found another fish in the pond next door that was larger, older, and even more lovable than the one we had come to see. Our dealer, Joel Burkard, assured me that it would not be a problem to give up the first fish in order to purchase the second. We were finally the proud owners of a Tomezo bloodline kohaku.

Oblivious to what else had been happening while we kohaku shopped, we found that a new friend in our party had purchased one of Mano-san's kohaku that had been in the breeders show. Another party in our group came back from the show and promptly purchased a beautiful fish for themselves. Our entire party had purchased fish from Mano-san. He does have stunning fish!

Dinner with Mr. Mano Enjoying Dinner

That evening we joined Mano-san and some others for dinner. This was quite an honor for which Mr. Mano pulled out all the stops. We had turtle, a delicacy in Japan, steak, prawns the size of medium lobsters, fish, pork medallions, salmon, and other delights to the pallet. We drank limited edition sake that was smooth as fresh rainwater. We toasted the turtle and long life with a drink of turtle blood (Lisa still won't kiss me) and followed that with a shot of turtle bile and lots of good Japanese beer. We all sang a Japanese drinking song and gave a "banzai" cheer to the future of our fish. The story of that meal is a story in itself.

While I never expect to have another meal that was so fun or exotic, I do hope to return to visit Mano-san another day. He has worked hard to produce quality koi and the fine fish he has produced are living tributes to his life. Mano-san is truly one of the "greats" in the koi world.

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