The Business Of Collecting Koi

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - June 20, 2007
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Nikkei Koi owner Gary Hironaka with one of his colorful koi
Nikkei Koi owner Gary Hironaka
with one of his colorful koi

It’s a grand fish story of more than 100 kinds of koi.

Gary Hironaka plans to move his business, Nikkei Koi, from his parent’s Kailua home to a 1-acre lot in Kahaluu by next year.

The construction has already started, and his new home, where he will live with wife Candice and their 3-year-old son Mitchell, will be right on the property where koi collectors can walk through a Japanese garden and over a Japanese-style bridge to get to the fish pavilion and showroom. There also will be various tanks for breeding fish.

For Hironaka, this hobby-turned-business was something that started at the age of 12, when he had only one koi.

“Then I bought more koi, and I got hooked,” he says. “It’s an art. There are different designs for every koi, and there are different bloodlines. I want to find the best koi in each bloodline. It’s like a treasure hunt.”

The Kailua High School graduate attended BYU and one semester at Baylor College of Medicine. It was at Baylor when he decided that instead of becoming a doctor, he’d have a fish business.

“I specialized in medicine and research in my undergraduate and graduate studies,” says Hironaka, who is also called the koi doctor, as he through trial and error developed his own way of diagnosing and treating the fish.

Hironaka lived in Japan for two years, and now goes there six times a year to purchase koi. He has spent $30 and up to $50,000 for a fish, and says he knows of someone in Japan who paid nearly $1 million for a koi.

Nikkei Koi specializes in unique koi, from the starter level to the high-end competition level koi. He stocks the popular three Gosanke fish - Kohaku, Sanke and Showa. He’s been in business for the past two years, and has had customers from the Mainland and Canada as well as Hawaii.

Nikkei Koi is a sponsor of the upcoming first Ohana Koi and Goldfish Show on June 24, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Honolulu Country Club tennis courts. Hosted by the Hawaii Goldfish and Carp Association, the free event features a competition for the trophy of the grand champion of fish. A guest judge from the Okayama Momotaro Koi Farm in Japan will be in attendance. There will be 26 tanks and 75 different kinds of fish from various collectors on the island.

Hironaka’s plans for the future include matching his collection of 6,000 fish from last year.

For more information, call 223-1989 or log onto

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