Gyotaku is a traditional Japanese art form that is highly unique. It is the art of creating a print of a fish using an actual fresh-caught fish. The word gyotaku itself is a combination of two separate words—gyo, which means ‘fish’, and taku, which means rubbing. As its name indicates, gyotaku is an art form that produces imprints of the fish through the method of rubbing.
Our gyotaku artist Akira (pictured here) is also an avid spearfishermen and surfer. He loves the ocean and goes out on the water every day if the weather permits. Akira is careful to spearfish only edible fish or invasive species. When he and his dive buddy swim under the ocean, they can free-dive down to 80 to 100 ft. Holding their breath, they are able to stay below the surface for about 1 minute.
The fish featured here is called the ulua or omilu, the Hawaiian name for the bluefin trevally. The giant trevally is an apex predator of most of its habitat. In Hawaii, it is a popular fish to eat and is often prepared as sashimi. Sometimes, on our island, we see it offered by local fishermen as a fresh catch of the day.
For the T-shirt design, Akira begins by taking a print of the fish using the traditional gyotaku method, and then adds color and additional details by hand. It’s a truly original design from Kauai!