Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • How big was that fish you caught?

  • This big?

  • This big?

  • This big?

  • Without photographic evidence,

  • there's nothing that proves you caught a whopper,

  • and that's been true since the dawn of fishing.

  • In fact, hundreds of years ago,

  • long before photography could capture the moment,

  • Japanese fishermen invented their own way

  • to record trophy catches.

  • They called it Gyotaku.

  • Gyotaku is the ancient art of printing fish

  • that originated in Japan

  • as a way to record trophy catches

  • prior to the modern day camera.

  • Gyo means fish

  • and taku means impression.

  • There are several different stories about

  • how Gyotaku came about,

  • but it basically started with fishermen

  • needing a way to record the species and size

  • of the fish they caught over 100 years ago.

  • Fishermen took paper, ink, and brushes

  • out to sea with them.

  • They told stories of great adventures at sea.

  • Since the Japanese revered certain fish,

  • the fishermen would take a rubbing from these fish

  • and release them.

  • To make the rubbing,

  • they would paint the fish with non-toxic sumi-e ink

  • and print them on rice paper.

  • This way they could be released

  • or cleaned and sold at market.

  • The first prints like this were for records only

  • with no extra details.

  • It wasn't until the mid 1800's

  • that they began painting eye details

  • and other embellishments onto the prints.

  • One famous nobleman, Lord Sakai, was an avid fisherman,

  • and, when he made a large catch,

  • he wanted to preserve the memory

  • of the large, red sea bream.

  • To do so, he commissioned a fisherman to print his catch.

  • After this, many fisherman would bring

  • their Gyotaku prints to Lord Sakai,

  • and if he liked their work,

  • he would hire them to print for him.

  • Many prints hung in the palace during the Edo period.

  • After this period, Gyotaku was not as popular

  • and began to fade away.

  • Today, Gyotaku has become a popular art form,

  • enjoyed by many.

  • And the prints are said to bring good luck to the fishermen.

  • But the art form is quite different than it used to be.

  • Most artists today learn on their own by trial and error.

  • Before the artist begins to print,

  • the fish needs to be prepared for printing.

  • First, the artist places the fish

  • on a hollowed out surface.

  • Then the artist spreads the fins out

  • and pins them down on the board to dry.

  • They then clean the fish with water.

  • When it comes time to print,

  • there are two different methods.

  • The indirect method begins with pasting moist fabric or paper

  • onto the fish using rice paste.

  • Then, the artist uses a tompo,

  • or a cotton ball covered in silk,

  • to put ink on the fabric or paper to produce the print.

  • This method requires more skill

  • and great care needs to be taken

  • when pulling the paper off the fish

  • so the paper doesn't tear.

  • In the direct method,

  • the artist paints directly on the fish,

  • and then gently presses the moist fabric or paper into the fish.

  • With both of these methods,

  • no two prints are exactly alike,

  • but both reveal dramatic images of the fish.

  • For the final touch,

  • the artist uses a chop, or a stamp,

  • and signs their work,

  • and can hold it up to say,

  • "The fish was exactly this big!"

How big was that fish you caught?

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 TED-Ed fish print artist paper fisherman

【TED-Ed】Gyotaku: The ancient Japanese art of printing fish - K. Erica Dodge

  • 876 122
    VoiceTube posted on 2013/06/13
Video vocabulary