Niigata is respected worldwide as the centre of the koi keeping hobby. The Niigata Prefecture is situated on the northern coast of Japan, directly north of Tokyo, approximately 2 hours’ travelling time on the Bullet train.
The journey is quite an ear-popping experience as you rise into the mountains through a chain of lengthy tunnels, eventually arriving in a land far-removed from the bustling high-rise blocks of down town Tokyo. In many respects, you get the same feeling as you would travelling north from London up to the Highlands of Scotland.
Yet the highlands of Niigata are blessed with conditions that have been instrumental in its position as the birthplace of koi.
The Niigata Climate
Niigata has a climate of extremes, ranging from the searing heat and intense sunlight of the summer down to 2-3 months of the harshest winter weather, often experiencing several metres of snow – something that needs to be seen to be believed.
Breeders bring the majority of their stock indoors in the winter while the short, sharp tundra conditions freeze off any residual pathogens in the harvested mud ponds, ready to be refilled and restocked in the spring. The uncompromising summer temperatures and endless days of clear, blue skies work wonders on the productivity of the clay ponds and the growth of Niigata koi.
The Niigata Geology
At first glance, the steep highland terrain of Niigata presents koi farmers with many problems when siting their ponds. Ingenious landscaping and a keen eye for the efficient use of land has led to the koi farmers of Niigata changing the local topography, by constructing terraces of ponds, perched on the mountainsides. The Niigata farmers go to the trouble of siting their ponds so precariously for the many benefits that the surrounding geology offers their koi. The mineral-rich clay-based substrate is literally the foundation of their koi farming enterprises. The clay provides a soft substrate in which invertebrate pond life will flourish and ensures that the water in which koi are farmed is packed full of beneficial minerals, enhancing the health and skin quality of Niigata’s world-class koi.
The Niigata Water
The highland location enjoyed by Niigata means that the ponds are filled with the purest water as it falls directly from the heavens and melts from the pure, white snow that covers the Niigata landscape. Water quality and quantity are never an issue for the Niigata farmers, as they and their koi grow in some of the world’s most ideal of growing environments.