Toshiaki Sakai is the owner of Yamamatsu Koi Farm in Mushigame, Niigata. He took over from his Father Toshiuki Sakai in 2011/12
Toshiuki is the elder brother of Toshio Sakai in Isawa (Matsunosuke)
Toshiuki Sakai inherited the business when his father Tomisaku handed it over 40 years ago.
At this time Toshio Sakai moved to Isawa to start up his own Koi Farm. (Read more in up coming article)
Yamamatsu Koi Farm breeds only from Matsunosuke bloodline, and he breeds some of the best Koi available in the world today. Sanke being the most famous Koi he breeds.
In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s This Koi farm was probably one of the busiest outlets in the whole of Japan, now famous breeders such as Momotaro, the late Hiroshima Sakai and many other southern breeders were scrambling to buy Koi from Yamamatsu. The Japanese market is still a huge part of the farms business. In the harvest periods you will see many Japanese hobbyists on trips to Yamamatsu Koi farm.
Alot of people call Yamamatsu Koi farm ‘Matsunosuke’ which in some ways is fine. However if you speak with Toshiuki he prefers to be regognised for his own fish and not his brothers in Isawa, yes he breeds from Matsunosuke bloodline but he breeds a very different style. The Koi from his brother Toshio are much more slender and far more heavy with sumi. Yamamatsu Koi are bigger bodied, bigger in length and less heavy Sumi. Toshiaki prefers to be known as Yamamatsu and not Matsunosuke.
The company has 5 facilities in the Nigata area and some of the very best mudponds in the area that have been in the family for many many years. They also look after private mudponds for their big private clients who rent ponds from them for their collections. Yamamatsu harvest these ponds each year, maintain the fish throughout the growing season and maintain the mudponds during the winter.
Most of my articles do revolve alot around the Chetsu Earthquake in October 2004. This is because of the impact it made on the Koi industry in Niigata. It’s very hard to describe how much it has changed the way the industry now works. It’s totally different than before. It has changed so much.
Yamamatsu were quite lucky when the earthquake hit, yes they lost some stock but managed to get generators up and running and also look after the Koi on a daily basis even though nobody was allowed in the mountains. It is said that the people looking after the ponds were hiding from police and helicopters to make sure the Koi were given air and generally looked after.
Like many other breeders in the area, I feel that there were some benifits from the Earthquake, with a combination of new parent stock and the realisation that South Japan were breeding bigger and more saleable fish, this was an ideal opportunity to try and catch up with them. When I visited Yamamatsu in October 2005 I saw some of the best Koi I had ever seen. The sizes were incredible. Nisai at over 60cms which just took your breath away. In the past previous years it was sometimes very hit and miss with that you could see at Yamamatsu. Some years the Koi were excellent, some years the Koi just were not there. Since 2005 the Koi have been the best some of the best in Niigata every year I have been. Toshiuki also suffers from Diabetes which made him very ill for many years. In 2005 he stopped drinking, shed about 5 stone, took up golf and started breeding some of the best Koi ever bred in the world.
You could also blame his arrogance in the previous years, to some he was very ‘unfriendly’ and was very unsure of the western culture and clients. Now he one of the friendliest guys in the mountains, extremely hospitable and a fantastic laugh if you ever get a change to go out on an evening with him which I have been lucky enough to do on a few occasions.
The quality of the Koi are not all down to him. His son Toshiaki is one of the very best. He has been breeding his own Koi for a few years now separate to his father. At harvest time it’s funny to watch the two of them inspecting eachothers Koi. Toshiuki started to realise he was being slowly over taken by his son when it comes to breeding superb Koi. Many times I have been called by Toshiaki to meet him down at the Nagaoka Koi house to look at his best Nisai and Sansai. I drive up there with camera’s and my client order book ready to send the pictures out. When I get there im shown the fish, I drool a little, I take the pictures. I then sit down (because you have to sit down) to ask the prices. Toshiuki just smiles and says “tategoi, not for sale” Even though Im extremely gutted about this, It’s such a pleasure to see how proud he is of these Koi, they excite him like a 4 year old at Christmas.
Kohaku – Yamamatsu female – Matsunosuke Male
Sanke – Matsunosuke female – Matsunosuke Male
Showa – Dainichi female – Variety of males.
Q: How many Koi are produced each year at Yamamatsu Koi Farm?
A: We spawn around 15 sets of parents each year giving us around 15,000 Tosai.
Q: With experience over the years you must have a good idea of how the Koi will turn out, how many do you expect to become saleable fish?
A: Alot of our Koi are sold within wholesale markets, of course we keep the top quality fish but we will sell around 10,000 Koi to wholesale to the world markets.
Q: So 5000 to keep and grow on?
A: Yes but when the same fish get to Sansai we harvest around 40 pieces. We do sell some of the Nisai but those 5000 fish will turn into 40 Sansai when we harvest.
Q: How many mudponds does Yamamatsu Koi farm now have?
A: We have over 50 ponds. 30 of these are fry and tosai ponds. The rest are very large growing ponds.
Q: After the earthquake the style of your koi changed alot, why is this?
A: Toshiuki wanted to breed bigger fish, he had been experimenting over the years to do this and we decided to put it into action. After the earthquake our mudponds were limited because of repairs so we had less fish to put in the ponds, they grew much better. We also had new ponds to use.
Q: Its always a pleasure to see the fish when they are harvested, they sell out so fast. Wouldnt you prefer to keep some of the fish to keep growing on?
A: In the future we will be able to keep some fish to grow. After the earthquake we have had to spend alot of money on new Koi houses and repairs, so we sell what we can.
Q: Your brother is very famous for the Matsunosuke bloodline, is there any rivalry between you and Toshio?
A: None at all, Toshio keeps many fish in Niigata during the year and we look after them. We are one big family and work very well together.
Q: He is known more for the typical Matsunosuke line, you have changed how you breed your fish and they are totally different to your brothers now, why is this?
A: Matsunosuke Sanke are still the best in the world, we just tried to change the body line and the thickness of the sumi. Yama-nosuke! He laughs.