How big did you say the fish was? A photo won't show the true size of a fish...a fish rubbing will....


                                                                                                                       watercolor by Barry Singer

GYO means fish, TAKU means print, rubbing, or impression. It's pronounced ghe-yo-tah-koo.  Early Japanese used this method of recording the size and type of their catch. It wasn't long before they realized that the images were beautiful art.  

 The History of Fish Rubbing ā€“ GYOTAKU

The first fish rubbing may have been done by an unknown samurai warrior in Japan over 200 years ago. This makes it a relatively new art form. Credit is given to an emperor for having an image of a large red snapper made by first adding paint and then touching paper to it. He hung the art and ate the fish! The oldest existing fish print is a red sea bream done in 1862.  To this day GYOTAKU is popular in Japan. 

More recent recorded history is most interesting.
Gyotaku came to America in the 1950s when a Japanese fish scientist (ichthyologist)
Yoshio Hiyama,(also spelled with an ā€œnā€) shared his fish rubbings with American scientists. He presented them as scientific illustrations of Japanese fish species. He published a book in 1964 on the subject.

Janet Roemhild Canning, an illustrator of fishes for the Smithsonian Institution, became the first expert American fish printer. She knew a good fish rubbing is probably the most accurate image, in every detail, of a fish's external features.

In 1955, Japanese printers formed a group called "gyotaku-no kai" (friends of fish printing) and an exhibition was held at the Matsuya Gallery in Ginza, Tokyo. In recent years they have remarkably improved the techniques.

In 1976, the U.S. Nature Printing Society was formed, and many new artists have come to light. Each year workshops are held in various locations.

 Barry Singer has recently become one of the best known GYOTAKU artists in the country. He continues to study the art and exhibits dozens of species from both fresh and salt water. Hundreds of his fish rubbings appear on various websites including  He is easy to find on Amazon and Ebay!

Here is a Gyotaku fish rubbing being pulled using the direct method:

A well cleaned black seabass is coated with pigment.

  Call out the names of the fins as you touch them...dorsal, pelvic, pectoral, anal, caudal.

Pulling an original GYOTAKU! This fish was rinsed off and cooked on the barbecue.From wildlife, to sport, to art, to the picnic table, all in one day.

Gyotaku are the perfect gift. They can be used to decorate lake and beach houses, cabins, porches, art studios, and dens. They bring good luck to kitchens and business offices.

There are over 30,000 kinds of fish. Fossils show that they have been around for millions of years before the first land animals.

To see more GYOTAKU visit