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"Gyotaku": The Art of Japanese Fish Printing!

April 07 2023
Gyotaku Japanese print of two fish.
On one of our recent outings, the Greenbriar Gang ventured off to Burr Oak Woods Nature Center to participate and learn the ancient Japanese art of Gyotaku, which is fish printing. As many seafaring cultures have art based around their aquatic cultural practices, the Japanese are no different, but this art practice was done by novice and master artisan alike.

As the tradition goes...fishermen would catch their daily hauls and bring them in for processing and market sale, but the biggest of their catches held special privilege of becoming a Gyotaku (fish print). The fishermen would rub the side of the fish with ink and place it on a piece of parchment paper and make a print of their sizable catch. In every culture there is always stories and fables surrounding the "big" catch or the "big" one that got away, and as the sharing of the story grew often so does the size of the catch.

Gyotaku started off with a practical implication for fisherman tales, but grew into a form of artistry where fishermen and artisan would creatively pair to make wonderful examples of the "big" catch and eventually becoming prized family heirlooms.

Our group got the privilege to work in this same tradition, but without live fish (rubber fish stamp substitutes) but also pairing the creativity and imagination with nature to make a beautiful piece of art. Take a look at our groups wonderful creations! This was a one of a kind learning experience for our Greenbriar naturalists and art enthusiasts.