Off-the-Eaten Path Food Experience in Japan. "Meet the People and Places behind your Plates! "

Saturday 21 July 2018

Ama female divers village in Shima Peninshula

Hearing the voices of Ama female divers 

Ama are female divers who go free-diving to catch shellfishes and seafoods like abalones, sea urchins, sea snails.without a breathing apparatus. The origin of ama dates back to 3000 years ago, which was recorded in the Chronicle of Japan.

They are still relying on the ancient methods of fishing until now without using modern technologies. This is to protect and appreciate the natural resources of their ocean.

It is said that ama divers are unique culture, which can be seen only in a part of Korea and in Japan. There are 2000 ama divers in Japan, and among them, half of divers are in the Shima peninsula of Mie prefecture.

Ama can dive into ocean for approximately 1 minute at one breath. They repeat this 20-30 times for one hour. Even 70 year old ladies, who feel difficulty in walking, still work for diving. The old lady said she found better in the sea rather than walking on the land.

Before the free-dive, they set fire in pray for their safety and to ward off evil spirit, even in the mid-summer. Mugwort of butterbur leaves are roasted and used as anti-fogging diving masks.

After 1-2 hours diving, they will get together to have snacks and chat. Although ama is lonely while diving alone in the sea, they always work in a group, so that all can keep eye on each other just in case of emergency. It is said that before, they sometimes witnessed sharks in the sea.

After 2 hours diving,  big abalones are collected.

Ama divers bring their trophies to the port, where the staff of fishery cooperative culcurate the purchase price.

Recommended place to visit in Shima

Sea-Folk Museum in Toba

Founded in 1971, the Sea-Folk Museum preserves over six thousand exhibits about Toba’s ancient fishing traditions and antique fishing equipment. 

Its architecture is also unique, and must-see destination, designed by a Japanese architect, Mr. Hiroshi Naito of Naito Architect & Associates. It was awarded several prizes, including Award of Architectural Institute of Japan by Architectural Institute of Japan.


It produces salt by using only seawater in the ancient method. Recycled wood from houses is used for firewood. Sea water is poured into a kiln and burned for 3 days until the salt is completely crystalized. You can see the process of making sea salt. 

Ama diver's guesthouse "AMARGE"

Ms. Rikako Sato, who became an ama diver 3 years ago, opened a guesthouse in Ijika town of the Shima peninsula. She will take her guests to the ama hut in the following morning, if it is the day of diving.