New Hampshire Agriculture in the Classroom

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Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Companion Resource


Gyotaku: The Japanese Art of Printing Fish

In this activity the students will identify the parts and functions of a fish, explore the Japanese art of fish printing known as gyotaku, and label their gyotaku print with the parts of a fish.

  • Parts of a Fish PowerPoint
  • Gyotaku: The ancient Japanese art of printing fish video
  • Fish (whole), 1 per group (fish can be fresh-caught or obtained from a grocery store or fish market; replicas are also available online by searching "rubber fish printing replica")
  • Black Sumi or block ink (available at art or craft stores)
  • Soft paint brush, 1 per group
  • Paint rag, 1 per group
  • Rice art paper, 1 per person (available at art or craft stores)
  • Modeling clay
  1. Use the Parts of a Fish PowerPoint to introduce the parts and functions of a fish. The species pictured in the PowerPoint is a Blue Tilapia. Tilapia are a fish commonly raised in aquaponics systems because of their heartiness. They are resistant to disease and parasites and can handle a wide range of water quality and temperature challenges. They are also easy to breed and grow to maturity quickly.
  2. View the video Gyotaku: The ancient Japanese art of printing fish. Explain to the students that they are going to create a gyotaku print and then label the parts of a fish on the print.
  3. Organize the students into small groups. Provide each group with a fish, ink, a paint brush, and a rag. Pass out a piece of rice art paper to each person. Model the gyotaku process for the class using the following instructions:
    • Place clay under any fins that need support.
    • Use the paint brush to apply ink to the fish.
    • Place the paper over the inked fish. Hold the paper with one hand to prevent it from slipping, and gently press the paper over the entire fish.
    • Starting at one end and moving slowly across the fish, peel back the paper. 
    • Add any desired background details including the eye.
    • Allow the print to dry.
    • Wipe any remaining ink form the fish in between prints.
  4. After the prints have dried, students can use the Japanese Name Converter to learn how to sign their Japanese name to their artwork. 
  5. Using the Parts of a Fish PowerPoint as a guide, have students label the appropriate parts of their gyotaku print with the parts of a fish.
File, Map, or Graphic
Lynn Wallin
National Center for Agricultural Literacy

Photo credit: J.G. Wang

Lessons Associated with this Resource