Gyotaku Flounder

A red and yellow gyotaku-style fish print of a flounder
Smithsonian Institution

Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese art that began as a way for fisherman to keep a record of the fish they caught. The fisherman would apply sumi ink to one side of a freshly caught fish, then cover the fish with rice paper and rub to create an exact image of the fish. The ink was non-toxic and allowed for the fish to be processed for eating, while preserving records of fish species and sizes.

Here, a Gyotaku-style painted flounder 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. When born, they look like normal fish and it is during the development of the skull that one eye migrates to the other side.  Check out the Ocean Portal Education Blog to learn how to do Gyotaku and to use this ancient form of fish painting in the classroom.