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Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers

Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers
  • For centuries, the world has been fascinated by Mie Prefecture’s ama divers female free divers who plunge deep under water to dive for pearls, shellfish and seaweed, wearing nothing but a loincloth. These days, the women wear white suits to dive, but their profession is still low tech, without the use of oxygen tanks, and requires huge levels of courage. The aging population and rising sea temperatures have caused the number of ama to dwindle but the Toba area in Mie is fighting to preserve their culture. One way is by opening up Mikimoto Pearl Island to tourists, but there are several other spots in the area that allow us a glimpse into the fascinating lives of the ama.

    Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers

    Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers

    Ama use special techniques to free dive up to 30m underwater and hold their breath for two minutes. When they surface, the way they release their breath making a whistle like sound, called an Isobue. Given the physically demanding nature of the work it’s impressive that the majority of ama divers today are over 40 years old, with some women continuing the work into their 80s. Although male divers exist, the vast majority of ama are female, and the work is passed down mother to daughter. The reason for the gender preference is thought to be that it was believed that women had more body fat than men and so could better stand the water, which would sometimes be incredibly cold. In past eras ama divers had the opportunity to support themselves and their families with the work, giving them independence and power within their community that their female peers elsewhere in Japan could only dream of.

    Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers

    Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers

    On your visit to Toba and the surrounding area you can meet the ama divers and learn about their culture. After diving, ama divers traditionally go to an Amagoya diver’s hut to warm up, rest, and socialise. You can take part in an ama hut experience where you can visit the huts, enjoy delicious fresh seafood and meet real life ama complete with their white diving suits.

    Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers

    Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers

    It’s worth noting that ama hut experiences are only available during times the ama are diving. It’s too cold for diving during the winter so ama take a three month vacation then, and also don’t dive during typhoon season from mid September to the end of October. If you have come at the right time of year, there are a number of huts that open themselves up to tourists, mostly in the Osatsu area, a 30 minute drive from Toba. An amagoya experience is a truly unique way to spend the day.

    Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers

    Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers

    If you would like a more academic education on the history of ama, you can head to the Osatsu Ama Bunka Museum. The museum has exhibits related to the town as a whole as well as a wealth of ama information. Moreover, you can rent bikes at the museum to explore the local area.

    Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers

    Meeting Mie's Ama Female Divers

    Mikimoto Pearl Island
    Address
    Mie Pref. Tobashi Toba 1-7-1
    Phone
    0599252028
    Ama Hut Experience Osatsu Kamado
    rating 18 Reviews
    Address
    Mie Pref. Tobashi Ousatsuchou 1238
    Phone
    0599337453
    Osatsu Ama Museum
    Address
    Mie Pref. Tobashi Ousatsuchou 1238
    Phone
    0599337453
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