The article is published with the kind permission of Russell Peters, PSKOI
Toshio Sakai was born is Mushigame of Yamakoshi village in Niigata, Japan. After his apprenticeship of Koi breeding under his father, Toshio left Niigata for Isawa to become an independent breeder. He founded Isawa Nishikigoi Center at the age of 18. He succeeded in the first breeding of Matsunosuke Sanshoku in Isawa. The offspring of the original Matsunosuke Sanshoku have received numerous awards. Among them, Chiba Grand Championship, Saitama Grand Championship. Kanto Koshin-Chiku Grand Championship and the All Japan Shinkokai Kokugyo (National Fish) awards as well as Grand Champion in 1994, 1995, 1997 and 2002.
While developing solid award records, Matsunosuke siblings continued to spawn for over thirty eight years and continue to produce numerous award-winning champions of Matsunosuke Sanshoku. His Goshiki received the first place award for five consecutive years and its siblings produced champion fish in Koromo, Budo-Koromo and Kawarimono.
Mr. Sakai’s challenge continues to be the production of Koi with further improvement in size, quality and long-lasting beauty.
What does all of this really mean and what is the true history of “Matsunosuke”?Where does the name come from? These are the questions that really intrigued me the most. I have met the man and I am familiar with what he has accomplished, but I thought it would be interesting to find out a little more. I asked Miwa Sakai, his daughter, where the name came from. This is her response;
“First of all, originally ‘Matsunosuke’ is our name of house. You know, Yagenji, Miyatora,, Yamakoshi and Ojiya. So these people have 3 names. I have never heard of this culture in any other place. Dainichi and Torazo. These are all that kind of name. It is a very special culture in the countryside.
For example, my father,
House name: Matsunosuke
Family name: Sakai
First name: Toshio
Company name: Isawa Nishikigoi Center
For example, Torazo
House name: Torazo
Family name: Kawakami
First name: Tsuyoshi
Company name: Urakawa Fish Farm
I heard the custom started a long, long time ago. Because there were many people who have the same family name. (Still now there are many Igarashi, Hoshino and Nagashima).
So people decided on a house name to tell which Igarashi is which and they have used this name for many things since then. So, some people use this house name for company name or Koi farm name or use it for their products.
About ‘Matsunosuke’ fish, my grandfather made new Sanke. It have beautiful ‘Gin’ and have special body shape. Many people called it, ‘Sanke form Matsunosuke’, or ‘Matsunosuke Sanke’. Since then, ‘Matsunosuke’has become the name of the fish brand. It is not only for Sanke. So people call our fish and my uncle’s fish,, it has magoi gene, is ‘New type Matsunosuke’.” ‘Matsunosuke’. Especially the fish my father produce."
I still wanted to be sure of what Miwa was saying so I asked her if it was really only a family name and not the bloodline of their Sanke. Her response was;
“It is difficult to give a definition of it. Matsunosuke is a family name and also it is the bloodline of our fish. But, it is not only for Sanke. Sanke is famous, but Kohaku, Showa and other fish that have the same ‘gene’ are Matsunosuke. They all have the characteristics of body shape and ‘Matsunosuke Gin’.”
I found this information to be truly fascinating and it led me to ask what I thought would be the next very obvious question. “Is it possible for you to tell me what Koi bloodlines your grandfather used to come up with the “Matsunosuke Sanke” or is it a secret?” To my surprise I got this response from Miwa;
“My father said that my grandfather used any kind of Koi bloodline. He just used his fish that he produced before.”
This shows how truly unique the “Matsunosuke” line is. It is an original line, that has been modified by Toshio, that exists no where else. The Matsunosuke line, specifically the Sanke, is very unique in its development as it introduced a new body shape and the “Matsunosuke Gin”.
Matsunosuke is, in my mind, something very special. It represents a family, a tradition and a level of quality in Koi that is undeniable.