There are two worlds of pets: the world where your lovable companion provides comfort and entertainment and the world of show breeding and competition.
The documentary Inside the Secret World of Koi places the championed fish into the latter of the two categories. Nishikigoi — which translates literally to “swimming jewel” — are shown to be just that.
Filmed by Dutch koi enthusiast Yvo de Wal — better known as “The Koi Partner” on his koi hobbyist-dedicated YouTube channel — the nearly hour-long documentary catalogues glimpses into what the title of the film suggests.
De Wal follows Japanese koi farmers from several koi farms as they “harvest” their crop of koi for the year.
From the mud ponds the koi live in for most of the year, the transfer process is laborious.
Koi farmers use everything from inflatable kiddie pools to specialized transport trucks to cart the fish to their respectful koi houses where buyers can shop for a new “swimming jewel” to add to their collection.
This is also the time for koi owners — who are paying farmers to raise their koi on the farm — to check in on their prized fish.
This process is long, as the documentary details. First, the koi must be extracted from the mud pond using nets.
The koi are then placed in a kiddie pool before being transferred by plastic bag to a temporary zip-up aquarium on the back of a truck.
Once in the koi house, the fish are transferred into another space to be measured before being transferred into a bucket to have their picture taken for either the prospective buyer or for the koi’s owner.
This process is repeated throughout the documentary as de Wal showcases different koi farms during the harvest. However, the documentary is not dull even with the repetition of the same process again and again — the koi truly are beautiful, and it is amazing how large these fish can be.
De Wal also takes the time to show how these koi farms are a family-run business, the children taking over the koi farming process from their parents as well as helping their parents through the harvest.
The music in the film blends perfectly with the relaxing narrative of the documentary. The film is methodically slow, showing each step in the harvesting process with long shots of koi casually swimming around.
The documentary is also educational, explaining the many different varieties of koi — from colour to shape — as well as explaining which koi farms are known for their specific hybrid variety of the fish.
The viewer also learns about the different koi competitions taking place around the globe and how the variety of koi the hobbyist chooses may affect their results in these competitions.
Competitions — like the “All Japan Nishikigoi Show” which just celebrated its 51st year this February — take place annually and the fish in competition are mainly raised on the koi farms by the breeders even if they are owned by koi enthusiasts.
The film leaves you with a bevy of koi knowledge and a sense of amazement that so much care and love goes into breeding these beautiful fish.
It might just leave you wanting to start a koi pond of your own.
Inside the Secret World of Koi is available to watch for free on YouTube.