On February 4th and 5th, the most prestigious Koi Show on earth enjoys its 49th event at the Tokyo Ryutsu Centre. The Shinkokai All Japan Show features some of the finest examples of Nishikigoi in the world, with the Grand Champions often getting sold in the six-figure range.
Although the show is advertised as being Saturday and Sunday, preparation and judging happen earlier in the week, away from public consumption. The itinerary is as follows:
Wednesday, February 1 – The event is set up at the venue. Unless you are into construction there is nothing too exciting to see.
Thursday, February 2, 8am – 5pm — Benching day (public can come but they have to be aware that there are a lot of koi on the move)
Friday, February 3, 9am – 3pm — Judging day (awards are denoted above the winners in English and Japanese)
Saturday, February 4, 9am – 5pm — Public viewing day (the main event for koi enthusiasts, who can see what is on offer and the winners)
Sunday, February 5, 9am – 2pm — Presentation day (actual ceremony runs from 11am – 1pm)
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Tim Waddington, owner of www.Koitrips.com and www.qualitynishikigoi.com. He has visited Japan over 60 times and has supplied Grand Champions to shows in the UK, South Africa and even America.
As a veteran of numerous shows, we picked his brain about the show and got some incredible insights into the competition.
Can you describe your first show?
My first All Japan Koi Show was in 2002 I think…
It was one of the first times I had ever been to Tokyo, so it was very daunting at first. Out of the 60-plus trips to Japan I have made, I have probably visited Tokyo around 10 times, and they were “flying visits” (very short visits), or the All Japan Koi Show.
In general, how many koi are entered into the show?
Numbers vary at the All Japan Show, but the numbers can be up to 3000 fish—which is huge! Numbers in recent years have reduced but the quality has not. You have to try and envisage the actual size of the show. People who are reading this and have gone to shows in the US, or Europe etc, The All Japan Show is MUCH bigger. Show tanks as far as the eye can see, it really is an incredible sight.
What is the process? The cost?
The All Japan Show is organized by the Shinkokai. Which is the Japanese Breeders Association. The entries to the show have to be handled by a breeder/dealer. The costs surprise many people outside of Japan because it can be very expensive.
The cost depends on the size and amount of Koi in the show tank. The prices, however, start at around 10,000Yen (+/-$90) and can range all the way up to around 150,000Yen (+/-$1300) for the Jumbo Koi. This is how the show can be so spectacular. The Jumbo Koi will also go in a vat on their own so it is very expensive.
Do you have a particular favorite category at the show? And why?
I like going to the All Japan Show to see the impressive Jumbo Koi. Seeing over 50 Gosanke all over 80cms (31in) is an amazing sight, it really is. It is something you can never see anywhere else.
The Jumbo Koi are not always the best Koi but they are obviously the largest, which in Japan, size really matters. When judging in all classes, the Koi that wins is probably the top in its size group. So if a Koi is 75cm (29in) in the 70cm-75cm (27-29in) class, the 75cm Koi will usually win.
The best Koi quality wise that I always see at the show are the ones between 65cm (25in) and 70cm, there are amazing Koi in these size groups, all hoping to continue growing to someday make it to the Grand Champion stage.
Can you speak to the criteria for judging?
I am a Koi Dealer, judging is not my thing. I find it very frustrating and decided many years ago to stop getting annoyed by Koi that win, or that do not win. I know the show classes etc, and also what the Koi judges look for but on the day that never works out!
For a look at the overall judging criteria, take a look at our article “Judging Koi Fish.”
How has it changed/shifted over the years?
I don’t think the All Japan Show has changed that much really, it will be the same as it’s always been because it’s always worked. While there are politics surrounding the Koi, the show itself is organised VERY well. The breeders all get involved and it’s always a fantastic experience. It is by far the best Show in the world.
Grand Champions would seem to come more often than not from the Gosanke class. Is there a reason for that?
Grand Champions (In Japan) only EVER come from Sanke, Kohaku, and Showa (the koi that make up the Gosanke class). These are the Koi that will always win the major awards. They are the hardest Koi to breed when you include pattern, body, and quality.
Are there some breeders that are “show darlings” or seem to get preferential judgments?
There are only so many breeders in Japan that can produce Koi of the level to win the All Japan Koi Show. I imagine some are preferred in some respects, but when you see the Koi at the show before judging, the 5 Koi that are picked out for Grand Champion are an obvious choice. The pick of GC out of the 5 Koi is not always so obvious but that’s up to the judging.
How are fish from outside of Japan faring at shows?
Only Koi from Japan can be entered in the Show. However, over the last decade, we have seen people from many other countries own Koi that have won Grand Champion at the show.
What conditions are the competing koi kept in?
Koi entered in the All Japan Show have been conditioned for this event. Breeders have separate ponds to condition Show Koi in and they will monitor water conditions, they add clay, they feed their own special recipes etc. Breeders are different and have many different ways of doing it, but it’s a fine art being able to get a 90cm (35in) Koi to a show and have it look as good as they do.
Where does the water come from?
The water is basic City water which is run through dechlorinators. The water in Japan does not have as many chemicals in as we do in the UK and USA.
It’s a very good quality water, which the breeders use all the time too.
How is the water tested?
The water at the show is always excellent, they have water teams testing the water all the time and the water is kept in top condition.
With the number of ailments (and particularly KHV) what precautions are taken to ensure the safety/health of the contestants?
The Show is ‘English style’ so each vat is separated, and they have splash guards between the vats. Nets are sterilized and all the precautions are taken. We are happy to report no sign of any virus has been present at the All Japan.
We hope that this has given you a little more insight into the All Japan Koi Show, and whets your appetite enough to try and make it to the Show to witness it for yourself!