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 What is Gyotaku?

  • The word Gyotaku is Japanese for ‘fish impression’ or ‘fish rubbing’. 

  • This practice began in the mid-1800s as a way for fishermen to document the size and species of their catch before selling it

  • Equipped with rice paper, sumi-e ink, and brushes, they would create prints of their prized catches. 

  • If they caught a particularly revered fish, they would make an impression before releasing it

  • They used non-toxic sumi-e ink, applied it to the fish, and pressed rice paper onto it to capture the impression. 

  • The fish would then be cleaned and either released or sold.


  • Today, Gyotaku has found a novel application in the field of conservation. 

  • Researchers use these historic prints to catalogue the biodiversity of fish in various regions over time

  • Scientific journals like Zookeys have published research on how Gyotaku prints help track the fluctuations in threatened and extinct fish populations in Japan’s past, filling in gaps where other data sets are lacking

  • There’s even speculation that these prints may harbour bits of DNA, aiding researchers in validating and tracking species present at the time.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Gyotaku UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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