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Gyotaku – The Traditional Japanese Art of Painting Fish with Actual Fish

Back when there were no cameras for fishermen to record their trophy catches, the Japanese came up with a unique printing method called Gyotaku. Gyo means fish, and Taku means impression, and the technique involved just that – using freshly caught fish to make inky impressions on paper.

Hundreds of years ago, Japanese fishermen would take paper, ink and brushes out to sea with them. They would rub the fish they caught with the non-toxic sumi-e ink and then print them on rice paper. Most of the fish were then cleaned and sold in markets, but a few revered ones were released back into the ocean. In the mid-1800s, fishermen began to add eye details and other embellishments, giving rise to a unique art form.  

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