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Gyotaku

Posted on: July 20, 2012

Gyotaku print made by Manske and Kitagawa using a fish replica.

The first challenge is working out how to say this activity! Gyotaku is a Japanese word.  Breaking it down, gyo – meaning fish and taku, meaning rubbing or impression, gyotaku is traditional Japanese fish printing. It has been used since the mid 1800’s by fishermen to record their catches.

So if you’re after something else to keep the kids occupied this holidays, why not give fish printing a go?! This may be a little messier (and possibly smellier) than last week’s plankton challenge, but still bound to be loads of fun and the great part is, you get to eat fish for dinner once you’re done! 

You will need to source a whole fish from either a retail outlet, or better still, take the kids fishing first (just remember your bag and size limits). Gently wash your fish to remove the slime layer. Pat the fish dry with paper towel, taking care not to rub off the scales. 

Plug the fish’s vent (the opening in front of the anal fin) with a small wad of tissue. If your fish has been gutted you will need to fill the empty cavity also. 

Fan out the fins and tail. You might like to use plasticine and dressmakers pins to hold them in place.

Using a paint brush, apply a thin layer of non-toxic paint to one side of the fish, avoiding the eye, the plasticine and tissues. Ensure the fish is covered including the fins and tail.

Place a piece of paper of over the fish and press down gently over the entire fish (hold the fish with one hand to avoid it moving). Peel back the paper slowly starting at one end.

Allow print to dry and then you may choose to paint on the eye, decorate it further, and label your fish (the sea mullet diagram in the Marine WATERs Lesson Plan: What’s a Fish may assist you with your labelling).

To make another print, reapply paint to the fish and press new piece of paper over fish.

Once you’ve finished printing, wash the fish again to remove all of the excess paint, remove the pins, plasticine and tissue. Fillet your fish, cook and enjoy for dinner!

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