SHEFFIELD, U.K. -- Property developer Mark, of Lodge Moor, and his London-based partner in fish Martin Plows have become the first westerners ever to win the All Japan Koi Show, the equal of the football World Cup in carp circles.
Mark, who has kept koi for 15 years, met Martin last year when they both tried to buy the same fish. Because neither man wanted to lose out they formed a partnership and bought half each. That year the fish they bought came second in show.
As a result they bought another – a Maruten Kohaku – which they entered this year and took first prize.
To lift the massive trophy they had to beat thousands of koi dealers, enthusiasts and breeders from all around the world who made their annual pilgrimage to Tokyo, the Mecca of Koi keeping. They also had to beat hundreds of years of tradition as Mark, aged 43, explained.
"Getting accepted in Japanese koi circles is the hardest part," he said. "You can't even buy a fish over there unless you gain their total respect.
"And to win the All Japan Koi Show was just unthinkable a couple of years ago. "The older generation Japanese still find it unthinkable that any other nation should win the prize. We never really expected to win, even though our fish is superb."
Mark isn't saying how much he paid for the six-year-old, 91cm-long fish but lesser specimens have been known to change hands for hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The fish, named Jessica Rose after Mark's four-year-old daughter, has never left Japan and Mark, who has another 14 fish over in the land of the Rising Sun, travels several times a year to see them. But now he intends to bring his world champion home and is having a 25,000-gallon pond constructed in his garden to keep the fish in tip-top condition.
Mark said: "I daren't tell you how much I spend on my hobby, it's scary really.
"My family think I'm completely mad."
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