Recently Emily Tucker
visited the Japenese Ama Divers to get a modern Freedivers insight into this ancient group of Women Freedivers. As a follow up to the popular article here is the picture story of Emily’s visit with the Ama and the fascinating culture and lifestyle they have. Sayuri is in her mid-60s and is one of the best divers in Toba City. She practiced Funado diving (variable weight) with her husband in the past but stopped after an ear injury. She told me that she doesn't like to fish with her husband anymore because he works her too hard! more Fishing as the Ama do is one of the most sustainable existences a person can have. Most of the ladies keep gardens growing everything from tomatoes to rice and the shells of their catch are ground up for fertiliser. more The first goggles (1878) were very basic with a special pressure release valve and eventually evolved into the large windowed, nose covering masks you see them wearing today. more The modern float (Tanpo) used by the Ama for resting and storing the catch. more The Ama busily prepare for a productive day of diving. more This was the only abalone I found as they are very well hidden and it takes a trained eye to spot them. more This is the real Ama goya, not the one seen by tourists. This Ama is cooking some peppers, sweet potatoes, and little fish as the other Ama prepare the catch of the day in the tourist restaurant. more The decisions to adopt modern diving equipment are always based on sustainability and whether the gear could lead to overfishing. The Ama prefer to keep things challenging! more While fins and a mask are commonplace amongst the modern Ama, snorkels are not used as this makes scoping out the sea floor from your float “too easy” as they try to keep the human advantage to a minimum. more Sayuri shows me the tako (octopus) she caught. more These are the large wild oysters (itabogaki) that are gathered in summer months. more These sazae (turban snails) live in thick seaweed along the rocky coast and were the easiest for me to find due to their unmistakeable shape. It wasn't turban snail season when I visited but Sayuri allowed me to gather a few to try. more An Ama in action, scanning the benthic community for the hiding spots of abalone. more An Ama in action, scanning the benthic community for the hiding spots of abalone. more The Ama are heavily weighted for diving in less than 15m making it easy to crawl along the sea floor. more Here we have an Ama descending along her float line, a very familiar practice amongst modern freedivers. more The past meets the modern age as I observe the lovely Ama. more An Ama descends with nomi (chisel) in hand. There are different types of nomi used depending on the size of abalone and the hooked version is useful for lobsters and sea urchins as well. more Observing without getting in the way isn't easy! more Getting a big smile and nod of approval from Sayuri made my day! more An Ama gazes out of her office window. As much as the Ama emphasise that their goal is to fish, I don't believe that is the only reason they come to work each day. more The reward for all my hard work were these treats, sazae, asari, and hamaguri. Oishii!!!