Gyotaku Fish Printing with the Keiki of Hilo

Gyotaku Fish Printing with the Keiki of Hilo

It’s been over a month since our Gyotaku Event in Hilo and we finally sat down for a minute to reflect on what a huge success it was!

Demonstration of Gyotaku fish printing by Leandra Keuma

Gently rubbing the rice paper

Danny showing off his Gyotaku artwork

Gyotaku, Japanese from gyo (fish) and taku (stone impression), is the traditional Japanese method of printing fish, a practice which dates back to the mid 1800s. This form of nature printing, was used by fishermen to record their catches, but has also become an art form of its own.

Gyotaku is a method of printmaking that traditionally utilizes fish, sea creatures or similar subjects as printing plates in its process. The literal translation of the word is "fish stone rubbing". Growing up in Hawaii, many people are familiar with the term and art form. For us, we couldn’t think of a better way to mix art and nature to get kids excited about fish!

practice Gyotaku printing with our Keiki using snapper from Suisan hilo

Gyotaku is a beautiful, fun and unique way to enjoy your catch before later cooking it to feed your ohana. Our goal for this event was to teach our Keiki how to work with different art mediums and paint using special Japanese Sumi Ink + traditional rice paper, in a relaxed and friendly environment. We want to help our Keiki find beauty in nature and we hope this will lead them to being interested in better protecting our Earth and cherishing the life above and below the Oceans.

you can see the joy in their eyes

You can see the joy on their faces!

A few weeks before our event we did a practice run with our Keiki. I couldn't believe the amount of engagement the kids had from start to finish. The moment we unwrapped the fish, they were poking and prodding and asking a bunch of questions. It was hands-on learning at its finest!

We taught the Keiki how to gently rub lemon on the fish to get the slime off and to wipe it with a cloth or paper towel before adding any paint. The kids understood that we needed to use non-toxic paint so it would be safe to eat when we were finished. And I think they almost had as much fun helping us wash, scale and clean the fish, than they did making Gyotaku prints! 

Wiping the fish with lemon helps to get the slime off

We used non toxic black ink for gyotaku

Washing and cleaning our Fish after Gyotaku so we can prepare it for dinner

Teaching the Keiki to clean our fish

The morning of the event we had planned to go diving for the fish we were going to use, however a large North swell was hitting the East coast of the Big Island making for rough conditions. The ocean was a bit choppy and not the best for free diving. We decided to visit our local fish market instead.

Getting fresh fish from suisan for sun dot Gyotaku event

Mahalo for the fresh fish Suisan

We were lucky to arrive at Suisan just before they put the fresh 'whole fish' out for sale. The 'whole fish' is often the first thing to sell out in the mornings and it is always a surprise on what might be available. When I mentioned to the boss, Robert Shibata, that we were going to be using the fish for a Gyotaku keiki event, he instantly offered them up to us for Free! He was more than happy to support our event and gave us a selection of beautiful fish to use. We are so blessed to have such a generous community and a fish market that’s always offering the freshest fish and friendliest service.

Suisan fish market Hilo with sun dot marine flags and Gyotaku ahi print

Suisan Fish Market, Hilo

The event was held at Kilauea Pottery, downtown at the ocean end of Waianuenue Street on an epic Friday night in Hilo. This venue has become a celebrated art space for keiki and adults of all ages and is well worth a visit. Jamie and her partner have curated an epic art and retail shop and also offer classes in all levels of ceramic experience.

Hesley our youngest Gyotaku fish printer at just 2 years old!

So stoked on the kids Gyotaku prints

We were lucky to collaborate with Leandra Keuma, owner of Circle of Life Hilo and Amy Fitzgerald and Dayva Belcher (both talented divers and artists). Thanks to them, the event ran smoothly and the kids all got amazing guidance. We had an assortment of ages attend from a few 2 years olds all the way up to 12 years old (we also had aunties, friends, moms, dads and even grandmas turn up to have a go at making their own Gyotaku prints!)

Gyotaku event hilo 2019

So much focus!

Keiki Gyotaku instructions

Keiki and parents enjoyed pūpū (snacks) and drinks as well as some delicious Captain's platters from Mohala's Fish and Chips. The wild-caught Alaskan Salmon from Salmon and Sable paired with Waimea's Keiki Cucumbers and Kipu'upu'u Farms Microgreens brought some delicious gourmet style to the table.

Salmon and sable and Keiki cucumbers

Pūpū and drinks on offer at Gyotaku Hilo event

This event was such a huge success we are currently planning for our next event in May. If you are interested in participating please contact us on (808) 936-1909 or send us an email at:



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Checking when your next Gyotaku fishing painting with Keiki class will be.



How I can I learn about events like these before they happen?

Ashley Plante

Tina you are amazing and so thorough. Following through from beginning to end! Your enthusiasm inspires me! Mahalo!

Leandra Keuma

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