Any keen fisher(wo)men among our readers?
Nowadays just about every phone is also a camera and a camcorder, so keeping a record of your latest catch is a trivial matter – and of course you’d want to, if only to avoid having to insist “I swear it was this big!” to disbelieving friends and family. But way back in the day there was no such technology available, so the Japanese had to get creative – and lo, gyotaku was born.
The oldest known gyotaku print is that of a carp, and is from 1839.
Gyotaku (魚拓) or “fish rubbing” dates back to at least the Tempou era, and is still in practice today. Gyotaku prints are appreciated as works of art, but have a practical aspect too: many fishing contests in Japan are still decided by gyotaku prints because photographs do not always express the true size of a catch.
The two main variants, namely the direct and indirect methods, both use inks to transfer the likeness of the fish to a sheet of paper or cloth. Finer details like the eyes are painted or drawn in by hand later. The following video demonstrates the direct method by Naoki Hayashi:
Mineo Yamamoto has been a gyotaku artist since 1973, and a great proponent of the indirect method. In the following video, where he instructs a student in the making of a gyotaku print, ink is dabbed onto the paper or cloth instead of being painted directly onto the fish:
As you might have guessed, a skilled gyotaku artist can produce incredibly detailed and lifelike images, especially if colored inks are used. Here are just a few examples I found on the interwebs:
Caught something that wasn’t quite a fish? No problem!
Hmm… I wonder what else we could gyotaku-fy…
So, has anyone tried gyotaku before? If you don’t fish, do you have a particularly docile cat or dog willing to stand in? Let us know in the comments!