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Gyotaku, Cherry Blossoms, and Japanese Cheesecake

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

We finished off our week cramming the last two days with more fun Japanese facts, stories, crafts, was a blast and we could have spent an entire month learning about it for sure! Fi's amazing art teacher had a suggestion (and the supplies) of a Japanese art technique that she thought Fi would enjoy called Gyotaku. In Japanese, “gyo” means “fish”, and “taku” means “print.” This art form originated in Japan in the mid 1800’s. Originally, Japanese fishermen would use this technique to record the texture and proportions of fish they caught. It later evolved into an art form. Now...we could've gotten an actual fish from the store to do this project but instead we used the borrowed supplies. The rubber fish was fun to handle and didn't't smell like an actual fish so it was the perfect scenario!

Fi enjoyed handling this one much more than a regular fish I think.

To do Gyotaku you'll need:

A fish (or an awesome art teacher with a fake one)

Rubber Roller (Brayer)

Paper- Fi liked tissue paper the best as the thinness is closer to the traditional rice paper they would've used and it's easiest to handle and see what areas need to be pressed to the fish. We also used copy painter that fi used to cover in watercolor first.

We began by painting a piece of copy paper with water colors. Fi chose blue to look like the ocean. Our cat, Laverne, wanted to help, of course.

We then put the ink onto a paper plate and used the brayer to spread it out so that it would evenly coat the brayer. Then we rolled the ink onto the surface of the fish.

After the fish was thoroughly covered in ink, we carefully pressed the paper down over the fish and pressed firmly all over. This was much easier to do with the thinner tissue paper.

Then we carefully removed the paper to look at our imprint and let it dry!

Then we did it again with tissue paper!

One thing that we found to be interesting is that after we learned the numbers 1-10, we learned the months of the year which are basically just the numbers with "gatsu" behind it. The number one is "ichi" and the month of January is "Ichigatsu" as in first month.The exception was April and July but they were easy enough to learn. Then we learned how to write the numbers in Kanji which was really fun!

We then practiced our creative writing skills by writing Haikus which is a short form of Japanese poetry divided into 3 lines with a set amount of syllables on each line. We used this printable and watched a video on the history of the world's shortest poems.

Next up we just had to try to make a jiggly, puffy Japanese Cheesecake! With 13 egg whites, we knew it was going to be a fluffy challenge for us!

To make Japanese Cheesecake you'll need:

  • 7 tablespoons butter

  • 4 oz cream cheese

  • ½ cup milk

  • 8 eggs, yolk

  • ¼ cup flour

  • ¼ cup cornstarch

  • 13 large egg whites

  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar

  • hot water, for baking

  • powdered sugar, for serving

  • 1 pt Strawberries, for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 320°F (160°C).

  2. In a small pot over medium heat, whisk together the butter, cream cheese, and milk until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth, then slowly drizzle in the cream cheese mixture, stirring until evenly combined.

  4. Sift in the flour and the cornstarch, whisking to make sure there are no lumps.

  5. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar while continuing to beat until stiff peaks form.

  6. Fold ¼ of the egg whites into the yolk mixture, then repeat with the remaining egg whites until the batter is evenly combined.

  7. Grease the bottom of a 9 x 3-inch (23 x 7.5 cm) round cake pan, then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.

  8. Pour the batter into the pan and shake to release any large air bubbles.

  9. Place the pan into a larger baking dish lined with 2 paper towels at the bottom. The paper towels ensure that the heat is distributed evenly along the bottom of the pan. Fill the larger pan about 1-inch (2-cm) high with hot water.

  10. Bake for 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 285°F (140°C), and bake for another 55 minutes, until the cake has risen to almost double its original height.

  11. Remove from oven, and carefully invert the cake onto your dominant hand and peel off the paper. Be extremely careful, the cake will be hot. You can also invert the cake onto a plate, but this will cause the cake to deflate more. Ours deflated a bit because we used the plate method to preserve our hands.

  12. Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar, then slice and serve with strawberries while still warm or place in the refrigerator and serve cold which is what we preferred.

We finished up our study of Japan by doing a cute Cherry Blossom Tree painting with cotton balls.

To make a Cherry Blossom Painting you'll need:

You'll need two shades of pink for the blossoms so just add some white to your pink to make a lighter shade if you only have one.

1. We began by painting the entire canvas blue and then used a blow dryer to dry it quickly.

2. Using a pencil, we sketched a tree limb onto the canvas and then painted the limb brown. We then used the blow dryer again to speed dry it. We turned our canvas horizontally to just make one limb but you can do a whole tree if you'd like to.

3. Clamp cotton balls into the clothespins and dip the cotton balls into the pink paint and dab it on the limb to create blossoms. Start with the darker shade of pink first!

We had such a great time learning about a different culture than ours and it's funny that it all began just because we decided to try out the Bokksu surprise snack box!

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