Yep! It’s an art form!
In the island nation of Japan, fishing is both a primary industry and a pastime. According to the writers of the Heart and Hands Ancient Far East Kit teacher’s guide, Japanese fishing competitions eventually ceased requiring competitors to show “the big fish,” but allowed for prints of it! The technique is actually called Gyotaku. “Gyo” for fish, and “taku” for rubbing. A quick websearch (wish I had done this before we started) yielded some lovely examples!
We purchased the kit upon the exuberant recommendation of several moms on the Sonlight forum who have taught the Eastern Hemisphere Explorer curriculum before. The first two activities in the kit relate to Japan. There are two small wooden doll figures to be painted to commemorate Girl’s day and Boy’s day in Japan, and…the fish. For some reason, I kept putting off the fish print. Not sure why…but I suspect because it involved a dead and slightly odiferous fish…
We weren’t entirely pleased with our fish prints. For one thing our fish’s dorsal fin was pressed down, and the tail was somewhat compressed so neither of them show up very well in the prints. A fresh fish would likely yield a nicer print! (Let me know if this is your experience!) The paint mixing instuctions yielded a very watery paint mixture, so we suspect something went wrong there. We also weren’t sure which side of the rice paper to use to press against the poor painted fellow. The funky fish fragrance hung around for a while; even the print itself exuded a whiff of the wharf. However, after spending a few weeks pressed in my hefty Ancient Civilizations tome, the paper smells like, well, paper.
In the end, we decided that everyone should paint a dead fish at least once!