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Japanese Life & Culture

"Ama" Summit Opened in Ise-Shima

By November 14, 2016 at 8:59 am

In case you are not familiar with the Japanese term "ama" you might add it in passing to your vocabulary - meaning "women shell diver": "a" for sea and "ma" for women. Ama shell diving is a traditional industry with years of history in Korea and Japan - women divers catching abalones and such shells underwater.

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Now, an international meet, commonly called "Ama Summit", opened in Ise-Shima November 4 for two-day sessions on all about ama shell diving. On the first day about 300 amas from 20 local municipalities and from Korea met in a session by the seashore in Anjo to dive and release 3000 or so spats of abalones in hopes of recovering now depleting aquatic resources.

According to NHK, an ama from Kuji, Iwate, June Fujiori, 25, told she attended the meet to study various traditions in all parts of Japan and to further her knowledge on ama culture. They later moved to a meeting in a local hotel to exchange views on how to activate the industry.

A local ama from Toba reported that she used to catch as much as 10 kilos of abalones a day and "now barely 1 kilo a day". A Korean ama from Cheju Island said more amas are catching more turban shells and fewer abalones. There is no doubt that aquatic resources are apparently depleting.

The Ama Summit will go on discussing on how best to procure human resources, i.e. more amas, and to sustain the culture of ama shell diving.

Ise-Shima is well remembered to have hosted the 2016 Ise-Shima Summit in October this year. The area is equally known as the home of pearl culture and ama culture.

Japan still owes much of its trade gains to cultured  pearls. It is one of active ama shell diving sites in Japan and there is such a thing as Ama Hut Hachiman readily accessible for foreign tourists. Why not those of you inquisitive tourists come visit there? (Nathan Shiga)

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