Japanese Fish Printmaking


Students will learn about the cultural history of Japan and experience the visual art of gyotaku (fish printing). A Gyotaku flounder print helps teach students about its anatomy. Flounder like all other flatfish, have both eyes on one side of its body while the opposite side is blind.

(Hands-On Learning, Multimedia Instruction, Discussion, Demonstration, Studio Practice)

Recommended Ages

Grade 5-8


Gyotaku is a traditional Japanese art form that is highly unique, and some may even say bizarre. The word Gyotaku itself is a combination of two separate words – Gyo, which means ‘fish’, and Taku, which means rubbing. As its name indicates, Gyotaku is an art that produces imprints of fish through the method of rubbing.


Gyo= fish
taku= rubbing
rubbing/ burnishing
ink slab
rice paper/ newsprint
printer’s ink


  • Rubber Fish models
  • Water-based Inks (black, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple)
  • Large, Medium, and Small paintbrushes (such as sizes 4, 8, and 12 round)
  • Newsprint


  1. Clean and dry the fish
  2. Have students lay the fish on a dry surface
  3. Apply water-based ink to the fish with a soft brush, sponge, or a foam brush
  4. Place the paper over the inked fish
  5. Peel back the paper
  6. Review the print
  7. Add background details