Meet new & old JAPAN ~MIE Prefecture 2 The ama “female diver”

Ama diving a precious culture asset

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The ama pursue an old profession which has already been recorded in 7th-century literature. The ama (海女, “female diver” or, more literally, “ocean woman”) pursue an old profession which has already been recorded in 7th-century literature. But nowadays it only survives in limited areas such as the Mie, Iwate and Ishikawa Prefectures. According to a survey made in 2007, there are approximately 1000 shell divers both men (also called ama, but written as 海士, “ocean master”) and women left in the cities of Toba and Shima in Mie Prefecture. One can say that it is a place of ama culture. Almost every ama became deeply familiar with the sea by using it as a playground from childhood and thereby learning to swim and dive in a natural way. There are strict rules to follow in ama diving, such as limiting the diving season and the amount of catch (e.g. shellfi sh, pearls, lobster, seaweeds), and to not take out premature catch – 1000-year-old schemes to sustain the resources of the sea, making ama diving a precious cultural asset. Up to the present day, Toba City features places that produce dried abalone for use in important Shintô rituals at Ise Jingu. In recent years, the amagoya (海女小屋) huts where the ama rest after diving have opened for the public and serve grilled seafood. How about eating some fresh seafood prepared by an ama right next to you while listening to her stories?

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Text and photo are from MIE Prefecture. Supported by JETRO KUALA LUMPUR.

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