It’s hard to believe that two weeks ago, the pond builder and I were just starting our trip in JAPAN! We had a wonderful vacation visiting extended family in Hiroshima, seeing some iconic sites and a little bit of koi as well. This is the time of the year that everyone starts trekking to Japan for harvests, local koi shows and purchasing koi. Maybe another year we will do that.
in Hiroshima we spent our first full day climbing Mount Misen on Miyajima. The proper name is Itsukushima and the “floating” Torii is a world heritage site. We started relatively early and the climb was pretty strenuous. I ended up straining my knee and spent the remainder of my trip a little bit gimpy. However it did not stop us from walking 6-12 miles a day.
On the way up the mountain there was a little pond with some very large and hungry koi.
Hiroshima’s baseball team is the Carps and they are heading to the Japan series. I find it amusing that they actually use the English word – carp – rather than a Japanese translation. They play in the Hiroshima Mazda Zoom-Zoom stadium 😂. The castle in Hiroshima is decorated with carps on the roof tiles and is known as the Carp Castle. While Niigata seems to be the area we think about for nishikigoi, there are many major breeders in the Hiroshima area.
No one in my extended family are into koi keeping but I have an uncle who has been a long time bonsai hobbyist. He has many beautiful specimens around his garden, He’s also an avid fisherman and hunter. When we visited with them we also discovered some of his other cool hobbies- woodworking and preserving game – his work demonstrates great talent
In Japan, we visited many gardens. I am so envious of the more mild climate. Japanese gardens are fascinating and so many little details to see. We loved the path variations, mossy carpets, bridges and islands in the water. The gardens reminded you of a miniature version of Japan. We would love to have an island in our pond which the pond builder said we could do by pouring a concrete post.
Almost every garden we visited had koi. The first gardens we visited had very colorful koi but some of the others had the dull brown and black koi. Regardless of color, all of them were clearly used to being fed by visitors.
While seeing a koi farm was not on our list, it seemed like a shame to be in Japan and not visit at least one. I reached out to Takahiro Omosako and he kindly spent a few hours with us at Omosako Koi Farm. Takahiro picked us up at Hiroshima Station and drove about 40 minutes to the east and into the hills. The main farm consists of number of greenhouses with ponds for tosai, oyagoi, koi coming in from the mud ponds, etc. We were hoping to pick out a goshiki or kujaku but the grade of koi we were looking for was still out in the mud ponds. I did see a few koi that had come in from the ponds and they were beautiful. Couldn’t post their photo though since even their owners have not seen them. I really loved a large kanoko koi and maybe someday my budget will stretch that far. Takahiro said the mutation is really uncommon with maybe only one really good one a year. The koi I loved would sell for above $10,000.00 right now. The pond builder took a fancy to another cool koi, also owned by someone else…a Tancho kujaku, but the Tancho part was white.
Work on the koi farm is pretty demanding. Takahiro’s brother was busy photographing some koi. The koi seemed very cooperative and it turns out they give them something like Valium for koi. His father was out visiting each of the mud ponds which takes him at least half a day. The mud ponds are scattered all over. Takahiro generally works twelve hours a day tending to the koi. All of the koi look very healthy in the greenhouse tanks and we asked if they ever had health issues. The answer was “no, we’re professionals.” At Omosako Koi Farm they feed the koi JPD and Saki Hikari. Pond builder asked if they fed anything special to enhance sumi. The question was deflected politely and the pond builder is certain there is some trade secret. The greenhouses are maintained at different temperatures depending on what’s in the ponds.
While most of the ponds are far away, we did drive out to the closest one which held 70 nisai shiro utsuris The koi seem to have a pretty good life lazing around.
While I’m sorry to miss out on picking out a new koi, we have an order in for something special when the Omosako ponds are harvested.
After Hiroshima, we traveled to Kyoto and visited a number of shrines and gardens. Here the koi were not so pretty but the gardens were beautiful. Some of the trees were beginning to change colors and you could imagine what it might look like in the fall. Many of the plants are tended to and trained like large scale bonsai. Some very unnatural looking but fabulous trees. Once again the moss caught my eye. Bamboo is everywhere. The pond builder loves bamboo and is always looking for a variety that might survive the Minnesota winter. In the gardens you will see that bamboo is used extensively to train the trees.
Our big splurge was staying in a hot springs area. We were in the Hakone region (near Mount Fuji) and the spa we stayed in was surrounded by bamboo. While I was there I remarked to the pond builder that my skin and hair had felt soft and smooth the entire time we were in Japan. Must be why the koi do so well … soft water, probably some interesting minerals and no chlorine.
We finished our trip in Tokyo and immediately decided that a big, crowded city wasn’t our cup of tea. Niigata was not on our itinerary but since it was only two hours away by rail, we decided to head out for lunch. We stopped at the Nishikigoi museum in Ojiya and saw a little of the countryside where all the mud ponds and breeders are nestled. We also went through the 8th longest tunnel in the world on the Shinkansen from Niigata to Tokyo.
While we hoped to see Mount Fuji from the ropeway in Hakone, the cloud cover made that impossible. Luckily when we saw the weather forecast for sunny skies throughout Japan, we planned our trip to view Fuji-San. We were not disappointed.
After seeing so many gardens in Japan, there are many new elements I would like to incorporate into my garden. Of course, it will have to wait a few months. We came home to plants killed off by the first frost and lots of leaves down. Can’t wait to start a plan for next year.