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Thread: Peter Waddington Article

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008

    Peter Waddington Article

    I saw this on koiphen, and I would like to see what the people who claim to be more intuitive in this hobby have to say....

    Is it just Me?…OR……..
    It is said by some that – ‘About the 1st. year of Genna (1615 – 1623) the people began to breed carp in villages within Nijimura (laterYamakoshi)’ – these were Magoi for food purposes only.

    More ‘information’ on early fishbreeding activities in this area can be stumbled upon on the internet.

    Others state that magoi were first introduced to the area around Takezawa village for food purposes only around 1850.

    Many state that ‘Hanako, a form of Aka-muji, lived to over 200 years old, I often wonder why our Koi rarely, if ever, exceed 40 years in age despite the far better water conditions we can now produce. Can we really accept this as fact, even bearing in mind that Hanako was not a true Nishikigoi/Irogoi? Since 1972 I have yet to see or hear of any Koi exceeding 30 years old.

    How OLD are ‘Irogoi’ (not Magoi) really? Decades? Centuries? Or older?

    I do not recall the name ‘Nishikigoi’ ever being used in 1977 on my first visit, although ‘Koi’ and ‘Koi kichi’ were often mentioned and probably the first time I personally saw this word ever used in print was in Kuroki’s book ‘Manual to Nishikigoi’ as recently as 1980 – only 28 years ago.

    Can I also try my very best to impress upon the reader/s just how incredibly difficult it was to access many of the famous Yamakoshi breeders of today even as recently as 1977 – only 31 years ago. Many of the roads throughout this area were little more than mud, wood and pebble tracks.

    We had to walk from the ‘main road’ because our coach could not access Yamamatsu and several other recommended outlets. Some of our party stayed in the coach whilst some of us made the journey by foot. At many other ‘outlets’ (houses) we had to walk over muddy rice paddies to eventually come across small concrete ponds next to the mud ponds. These unfiltered ponds were fed only by an overflowing trickle of spring water and covered with wooden logs to prevent the Koi from escaping. The logs had to be removed before the Koi could be finally seen. They also had to be sold before the winter set in!

    That, please remember, in 1977 was in ‘modern times’ when motor vehicles, small food stores, rubber boots, telephones, electricity, vinyl bags and good city water supplies were all readily available in the mountains. Even more important was the fact that, after WW2, the Japanese government had taken significant areas of mountain land from the landowners and had distributed it, for no charge, amongst the villagers living in this area. Some 200 miles south, Tokyo back then, was already an ultra-modern city of concrete, skyscrapers and all the necessary creature comforts whilst the cities of Ojiya and Nagaoka (nearest to Yamakoshi) resembled little more than the wooden towns depicted in many wild west movies of old.

    Let us now, just as an example, imagine we are in this area of Japan during 1910. No vehicles, no roads at all, just well-worn tracks, no vinyl bags, no fresh water supplies and no electricity. Just about the entire area was owned by wealthy landowners who ‘graciously’ employed the local mountain folk for labour. Most forms of ‘transportation’ were carried out by the villagers themselves on their backs (timbers, rice, vegetables, fruits and wild herbs) and up and down the steep mountainsides. If the load was too heavy then oxen or much rarer horses had to be employed. When the winter snows came the villagers were no longer required for labour and had to survive through these periods in whatever way they could, and without income, until the spring thaw finally arrived when they could be employed once more and the mountainsides could, once again, be cultivated.

    Shall we now, as another example, imagine we are in this very same area of Japan during 1500AD when some still profess that Irogoi could be found?

    I will leave this to your own imaginations!

    My own imagination says it is total and utter clap-trap!

    • The first Nishikigoi Show ever staged was in 1968 – only 40 years ago and verified.

    Why, I ask myself, were shows not staged earlier if, as many also profess, they have ‘been a part of ‘Japan’s Heritage’ for Centuries’?

    • The Tokyo Taisho Exhibition staged in1914 – this was the very first time ever that the Japanese people had even heard of them, let alone actually seen them. To transport 28 Irogoi from Ojiya/Nagaoka to Tokyo by train meant using wooden ‘ponds’ that leaked badly and having to add aeration to the water by hand – indeed a very difficult task to carry out. None eventually survived this ordeal in order to be returned to Yamakoshi!

    • Some years before WW2, Koi were transported in wooden containers by rail to other areas of Japan – Saitama; Shizuoka; Kyoto; Osaka; Hiroshima; Kyushu etc. for breeding purposes in some warmer climes – many were lost during the lengthy travel times of these slow journeys.

    Quote from Amano, probably the first documented information on these fish, (first published in 1968)

    • ‘the bitterness of feeling which the producers (breeders) experienced in delivering up their pet carp to cover the (WW2) wartime deficit of foodstuffs.(In short most were eaten by the villagers as food) Consquently, the production declined to such an extent that it was feared recovery after the war would be past hope, but thanks to the efforts of the parties concerned to preserve adult carp, the recovery of carp breeding has rapidly progressed.’ (Once again, ‘the recovery’ refers to 1968 – only 40 years ago).

    From many conversations with Nishikigoi breeders and Koi historians over many years it appears that the real beginnings of coloured carp production commenced AFTER WW2.

    Another quote from Amano –

    • ‘the standard price of fancy carp, in reality, does not exist and the sale-price and purchase-price differ according to the seller and the purchaser.’ This statement has always remained to be the very same in my experiences.

    • Please also note, that around 1963, – the very first vinyl bag was invented and produced. Later it was discovered that, by putting water into the bag, then adding the Koi and then inflating the bag with pure oxygen, it was, at last, possible to transport Koi safely for the very first time – and that was only some 45 years ago.

    Despite all of the above ‘snippets’ of texts, the real truth of the matter remains that NO real and accurate documentation of the very early days can be found anywhere today and, believe me, I have tried on many occasions to dig up the truth from many Japanese Koi breeders and Koi historians only to get an array of incredibly conflicting answers.

    Magoi may well have been bred for food purposes in Nijimura/Yamakoshi many, many years ago and some information has been recorded from time to time. I documented some of the official Takezawa Village Office records in my last book. I can assure you that the first ‘Sakura’ (Kohaku) varieties ever produced and detailed at the recorded time (1917) bore absolutely no resemblance to the actual Kohaku strains produced in the late 1950’s and then developed through the years into the Kohaku we can see and admire today.

    As also stated in my last book and for the purpose of the text continued below:-

    Can we simply accept that the ‘serious beginnings of today’s production of Nishikigoi’ only really commenced around 1947- 1948? Just a mere 60 years ago.


    The ‘Heyday’ for the serious Koi hobby in Japan was from 1965 to 1990 and ‘peaked’ around 1978. After 1990, the domestic market for Koi continued to decline annually to become as it is today in 2008 when only the very low grade Koi produced by the breeders are sold to pet shop suppliers in volume and other small companies who supply them to fishing ponds all over Japan.

    There are still some Japanese collectors who continue to purchase high class Koi but not in any numbers as were witnessed in bygone days. It would be very interesting to compare the Japanese membership of ZNA in 1978 compared with the Japanese membership of ZNA today.

    • To put all this in a nutshell, the Japanese Nishikigoi market in and around 1969 formed almost 100% of production in the world whilst in 2007 it only amounted to under 20% and that includes Koi of ALL prices and qualities.

    • I very much doubt if this figure will do anything other than sadly continue to deteriorate, in short, and in my own opinion, the overall hobby of keeping Koi in Japan today is well on its way to being over and will eventually finish alongside the hobby of keeping fancy goldfish. This is despite the very serious efforts of Shin-ko-kai, the breeders, the dealers and Zen Nippon Airinkai combined to constantly promote all aspects of the hobby to the domestic market today. I sincerely hope and pray that I am completely wrong in this prediction!


    The ‘Heyday’ for the serious Koi hobby in the UK was from 1983 to 2004 and peaked around about 1992-3 when sales were incredibly buoyant. After 2003, I personally became very aware that the total numbers of ALL Koi imported from Japan and sold to enthusiasts, both serious and not-so-serious, continued to decline annually whilst the number of retail outlets for Koi continues to escalate for reasons that are far beyond my grasp.

    As an example:-

    • In 1996 there were around 15 ‘specialist professional outlets for Koi’ in the UK together with around a further 20-25 ‘back-garden’ outlets and total value of all Koi sales to the enthusiast amounted to (let me say, for example purposes) - £X.

    • In 2008 there are now less than 7 ‘specialist professional outlets for Koi’ in the UK together with around a further 50 or so ‘back-garden’ outlets and total value of all Koi sales to the enthusiast amounted to approximately £X minus 40% and will sadly continue to deteriorate despite the many outlets who will probably shut their doors over the winter/spring of 2007 – 2008.

    • The membership of The British Koi Keeper’s Society in 1985 was around 5,000 plus. I do not know the membership as in 2008 but seriously doubt that it exceeds 1,000 and I stand to be corrected here.

    Could it be that the hobby in the UK is going along the path of the hobby in Japan, albeit some 18 years later?

    Or is it just me?


    The serious Koi hobby in the USA really ‘started’ in 1987-88 or thereabouts as far as I am aware, some six years after the real start of the UK hobby. Am I correct in predicting that the decline in the USA hobby is about to, or has already started?

    I can also roughly include Holland, Germany and Belgium in this time frame.


    Please excuse my hand-drawn ‘graph’ above but it should serve its purpose.

    In all of the first two examples above there seems to be around a 23 to 25 year period from ‘start’ to ‘peak’ and then back again to ‘start’ once more.

    I hope this can explain this phenomena far more clearly by showing an ‘up-turned V’ with ‘total sales’ increments on the left and ‘years elapsed’ horizontally on the base of the graph.

    Furthermore, and this is also an important and well-known fact, even merely ‘good Nishikigoi’ rank alongside rare oil paintings, antiques, works of art, jewellery, high fashion etc. in terms of true ‘LUXURY GOODS’ and this has always been so, whilst ‘very high class Nishikigoi’ have always been in the heady realms of significantly wealthy individuals.

    And, as we all know, the very first commodities to suffer in any economic recession are the ‘Luxury Items’.

    Again, (and purely in my own opinions as I see it), there are FIVE MAIN REASONS as to why this has all taken place in the UK and left us all in the general Koi situation we are facing as of now in 2008 which is, by far, at the lowest point that I can ever recall.

    • Reason One. The current economic situation in the UK, in my experience, this has been with us for at least one year to date. I think this has had some effect in the reduction of actual Koi sales but no more than it did during several previous recessions that I successfully faced and overcame in years gone by. In view of this, I do not consider the present economic situation to be a very real problem in the long term picture.

    • Reason Two. The huge UK increases we now face in the current severe hikes to our utility services namely water, electricity and gas charges. We must also include high fuel increases for transport in this reason. Running costs of a Koi pond system is rarely cheap and many I know are now investigating their own actual running costs in depth. I do consider this to be a real problem and one which can only become more expensive in the future.

    • Reason Three. And this is common to the world Nishikigoi market, namely KHV. I do not think I need to go into this reason further but significant costs for quarantine and testing have now to be met by breeder, buyer, seller and final owner alike – think about it!

    • Reason Four. This also applies to the world Nishikigoi market and has been a real factor for many years. I refer to the annoying phenomena known as ‘Shimi’ which can reduce the purchase price of a very valuable Kohaku by some 95% overnight unless it can be removed completely and without any detection whatsoever. If a Shimi is found on the skin of the head pattern it is almost impossible to remove at all. This affects both mid-range through to high-quality world class Kohaku. (We can all live with a random Shimi on Sanke and Showa varieties.)

    • Reason Five. See reason four above in the main part but this relates to ‘Hikui’, a far more serious phenomena to account for. As we know, Hikui is seldom transmitted from Koi to Koi and targets only the ‘beni’ pigment on Go-Sanke varieties only. This can also seriously de-value a Koi overnight despite all the preparations said to eradicate this by companies such as Izeki and a few others.

    Until we can successfully resolve reasons three to five in the near future, these will continue to be very serious problems for all involved in the ‘world industry of Koi’.

    However, it is a combination of all the five reasons given above which have already reduced the world sales of Nishikigoi and the Koi dry-goods markets. The effects of this are already beginning to be felt in the overall hobby itself in the fact that it is now a very real ‘buyer’s market’.

    Reasons four and five are very responsible in some of the reasons for Japanese Koi enthusiasts finally giving up the hobby many years ago.

    We should now be aware of the five main reasons above as to why the number of Koi sales in the UK have diminished significantly over the past years and, in my opinion, will continue to do so after all the ‘back-yard’ Koi outlets have long-since given up the ghost of ever believing that buying and selling Nishikigoi can be a profitable business in which to be involved today.


    • As Nishikigoi outlets close down, so do staff numbers and the owners who will find themselves looking for new employment.

    • This is already affecting both ‘specialist’ and even ‘non-specialist’ Koi dry goods suppliers/manufacturers and will only get worse as the actual Koi sales deteriorate. This will also see a reduction in staffing costs and possible price increases seem inevitable as the increases in utility and road fuel costs start to bite hard.

    • The specialist Koi dry goods manufacturers will be the first to face the situation head on. If their particular product/s is/are very good and reliable as advertised they will also be, by nature, far too expensive for the mass market.

    Couple this with the fact that most of the enthusiasts who can afford to buy these items have already purchased them long ago and even by reducing final prices to just 50% of the original price will not tempt many new buyers into purchasing them. (Sadly, at even 50% of the cost of an expensive item, this still remains ‘expensive’ to the majority of enthusiasts out there who will seek other avenues such as second-hand goods and man-made assembly methods in order to reach their goal).

    Alas, the specialist Koi dry goods manufacturers will still have to meet very expensive on-going overheads which can hardly be avoided and will only continue to increase as the months go by. This is, unless they can rapidly diversify into other avenues totally outside of the Nishikigoi industry!

    • The recent news of the tragic loss of probably the most famous person in the world-wide Nishikigoi industry was only posted, very ‘matter-of-factly’ and very briefly on a few web sites and now seems to be already forgotten!

    I find this totally and completely inexcusable as Hiroji Sakai was a true GIANT in the world of Nishikigoi. He deserves far more to be recorded of himself and his incredible achievements rather than simply ‘ignoring’ the issue purely because of the way his life sadly and finally came to an end.

    A savage combination of KHV problems, internal family problems, un-paid outstanding debts plus significant cash-flow problems all contributed together to result in the final demise of this true genius whom I first met in 1982 and interviewed him in 1987 for inclusion in my first book.

    • This was the man who single-handedly designed and went on to finally build the largest Nishikigoi farm in the world DESPITE the geographical location which is totally isolated and hidden away deep in the countryside of Hiroshima Prefecture.

    He introduced ‘controlled and monitored diffused pure oxygen aeration’ to all of his many indoor ponds as well as adding costly oil-fired heating to all his indoor facilities.

    He also was the most knowledgeable person I have ever come across regarding selection and ‘pairing’ of Oyagoi which later was witnessed in his production of All-Japan Champions in recent years. He was respected throughout Japan by his contemporaries and held in very high esteem.

    The single and only factor which Hiroji could not possibly have predicted in the early days was exactly what I have attempted to detail above –

    • And that is a ‘ very acute drop’ in world-wide demand for Nishikigoi today

    - whilst his ENORMOUS overheads of building costs, staff and employment costs, vehicle costs, heating costs, electricity costs, water costs, feeding costs, advertising costs, administration costs, travel costs, bad debts etc. continued with each passing day whilst his vital Nishikigoi sales sadly continued to drop with each passing day!

    Farewell to a true innovator, a wonderful human being, a person I greatly respected and an individual who devoted his entire life…and more….to his true love of Nishikigoi.

    There, that is my own tribute!

    Please DO be VERY aware, the tragic loss of Hiroji Sakai to the worldwide hobby of Nishikigoi is only the very tip of the iceberg!

    I also have real concerns regarding the future of other large Japanese outlets such as Momotaro; Konishi; Takeda, Narita in Komaki; Isawa Nishikigoi Centre; Dainichi and Seitaro. All of these world-famous outlets have significant running overheads to meet which can only be paid for in continued Koi sales.

    On the other hand, the smaller outfits in Yamakoshi will continue despite falling sales. In autumn 2007 their sales were down by 30% compared with those in autumn 2006. I dare not predict what the final results will be in autumn 2008.

    And why will they continue to survive?

    • They trade from homes which have long-since been paid for in full.

    • Their ‘staff costs’ comprises of wife, sons and some daughters.

    • They do not buy expensive clothes or expensive cars.

    • They usually own one vehicle which is used by all as needed.

    • Their overheads for the business are moderate – water, oil, electricity and feed costs.

    • Living costs (food and drink) for a family of three in Yamakoshi can easily be bought for 10,000 to 15,000 per week (but do NOT make the mistake in trying to convert this amount to the sad value of overseas currency today). To bring all this into perspective, in 1977 there was a price tariff displayed at the reception of the Grand Hotel in Nagaoka which read ‘Single room inclusive of breakfast – 7,500yen’ on my last visit in 2004 the same tariff remained with the same price displayed! In 1977 7,500yen meant £7.50 to Peter Waddington, in 2008 it means £43.86. Imagine the true value to the breeders of 15,000yen!

    • They have over ten years of ‘fat’ remaining as a result of some very high sales behind them, in short, available cash money is not a problem.

    Finally, one pound sterling is only worth 171 yen as of today!

    Or, once again,……………is it just me?

    I had to think long and hard before finally making this text available to others. I truly hope I am completely wrong and that it is purely the needless ramblings of myself alone and I will wake tomorrow wondering what it was all about.

    Peter Waddington, written between 01/07/08 to 11/09/08.

  2. #2
    Jumbo jnorth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Peter posted this at NI originally and there is a lot of comments there that you may wish to check out.

    Nishikigoi International: Concerns posted still with trepidation
    My personal koi page Updated 7/8/07
    ZNA Potomac Koi Club

  3. #3
    Jumbo jnorth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by kakattekoi View Post
    I would like to see what the people who claim to be more intuitive in this hobby have to say....
    By the way thats a really odd statement for your first post here. Not sure where you saw those claims but um ok its all good .

    Also if you check the link in my first post in this thread I think you'll find comments from a few of the people that post here as well so they probably will not duplicate their comments here. You'll also find extended commentary from Peter in a couple other threads.
    My personal koi page Updated 7/8/07
    ZNA Potomac Koi Club

  4. #4
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Orlando, Florida
    Peter Waddington is one of the most important figures in the history of koikeeping in the West. His innovations in pond design transformed koikeeping. His singular devotion to obtaining the highest quality koi in the world set the standard all others in the business seek to achieve. His writings opened the minds of westerners. Koi Kichi and Koi II Kichi are the best koi books ever written, although KK is over a decade old. The hobby in the occident would never have become what it is without him.

    ... in this instance, Homer nodded.

    The koi hobby is not dying. It has never been more widespread. And, as JR has pointed out, nishikigoi did not spring full born from a well. The genetic progress from wild carp to contemporary nishikigoi is a process that has required human intervention over centuries.

    The world changes. The hobby changes with it. The Peter Waddington of 1977 would be excited by the possibilities. So should we. The best koi ever produced has not yet been hatched.

  5. #5
    Jumbo carrie1964's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Louisville KY
    Very interesting read. Thanks for the link.

    Quote Originally Posted by jnorth View Post
    By the way thats a really odd statement for your first post here. Not sure where you saw those claims but um ok its all good .
    Yep, odd....but welcome to Bito!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    I find it somewhat quizical that someone from Koiphen copies and pastes a post here that was copied and pasted from somehwere else to begin with and does so as their first post?

    Hey, maybe it is just me but the response to Peter's comments really needs to be where he made them and intended to get responses at....not here nor Koiphen since he does not frequent either.

    The views presented are my personal views and not that of any organization that I may belong to unless otherwise specified. [email protected]

  7. #7
    Jumbo jnorth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by schildkoi View Post
    I find it somewhat quizical that someone from Koiphen copies and pastes a post here that was copied and pasted from somehwere else to begin with and does so as their first post?

    Hey, maybe it is just me but the response to Peter's comments really needs to be where he made them and intended to get responses at....not here nor Koiphen since he does not frequent either.

    Hence the link to the original source at NI .
    My personal koi page Updated 7/8/07
    ZNA Potomac Koi Club

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by jnorth View Post
    Hence the link to the original source at NI .

    Glad to see I wasn't the only one Jim.

    The views presented are my personal views and not that of any organization that I may belong to unless otherwise specified. [email protected]

  9. #9
    Oyagoi mstrseed's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Georgetown, Texas USA

    Define "young".............

    At least in our area the "young" and in late 20's early thirty's...................and I might add have a great eye and taste for Koi!

    Just look at those Koi that Ryan, Duc, Sonny, Thomas & Derek and many other "young" hobbyist own..................

    I find they are willing to help and support their local shows, not only with showing but up at set up and tear down.

    I would think that the "older" mentors need to involve these motivated "young" hobbyist in more aspects of shows and as officers in the local clubs. They can learn along with teach a few old dawg's new tricks and ideas.............

    BTW, Dallas show chair next year is Duc Nguyen
    Koi Wrangler

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