Ama Divers of Mikimoto Pearl Island at Toba, Japan
We arrived just in time to see a demonstration by the Ama divers of Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba, Japan.
Ama Diver of Mikimoto Pearl Island
These females divers with incredible ability to hold their breath under water in times past were the main people to find oysters containing natural pearls.
From an observation deck we watched the bay for a covered boat carrying three divers.
Meanwhile in beautiful Toba Bay colorful tourist ferries made their rounds and pearl cultivating platforms can be seen.
Soon the boat arrives carrying the Ama divers of Mikimoto Pearl Island. They appeared to be dressed in bed sheets, with a white cloth on the head covering their hair like a hat, one on the bodice tightly covering the chest and one wrapped around the waste like a long skirt below the knees.
An announcer through a loud speaker introduced each diver who bowed in traditional Japanese fashion.
Each had a large wooden tub with a long rope attached and loop which could be looped on their hand.
After tossing the tub in the bay, they put on face goggles and joined the tubs in the bay. They proceeded to dive gracefully into the bay with feet flipping out behind them like a whale's tale and stayed under for some time, although I forgot to time them. I'm sure their ability to stay under water for prolonged periods is one of the qualifications for the position.
They'd surface, sometimes with an oyster, sometimes, not. As it was only a demonstration, even if they were empty-handed they would toss a pretend oyster into the wooden barrel.
After several graceful dives and rests between to catch their breathe, they waved at us and returned to the covered fishing boat that delivered them.
We happened to take a back path to the Mikimoto Memorial Hall afterward and accidentally intercepted the three wet maidens as they entered the building. Seeing me and my two sons, they hurried past us embarrassingly and full of giggles.
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