Written by Vern Begg
About the Author:
I love seeking out new adventures and experiences all around Japan. A perfect day for me is when I get to be outside, do something active and then eat a delicious meal. Since moving to Japan from Canada in 2015, I have been lucky enough to have many experiences that meet these criteria.
When I found out about the Ama diving experience in Ise-Shima, I knew it was something that I wanted to do. I knew of the all female Ama divers and was very intrigued by what I had read about their free diving traditions. The fact that they sometimes dive to depths of 10 meters without any oxygen to gather abalone, oysters, seaweed and other seafood delicacies is very cool.
The experience I signed up for was a morning dive with an Ama, followed by a seafood lunch prepared by another diver in a traditional Ama hut. Fresh seafood was something I didn’t get to experience when I was growing up, but now I get excited anytime I have a chance to eat something that came out of the ocean very recently.
The day of my diving experience, I woke up to a cloudy and rainy morning. I made my way to the Wagu Fishing Port in Shima City to meet my guide and the Ama diver who would be taking me into the water. The first step was to change into a wet suit. It had been a few years, but I was able to wedge myself into the foam neoprene and I was ready to go.
Caption: The tour starts from the Wagu Fishing Port in Shima city.
Next, we boarded our boat and met our captain for the journey to the diving stop. The Ama I was going to dive with was Nao Sugiyama. Nao was very friendly and she quickly made me feel confident that I would enjoy my time in the water.
Caption: Boarding the boat that would take us to the diving spot.
Nao had some leaves that she rubbed on the inside of her mask to keep it from fogging up. After preparing her mask, she showed me how to do it and I prepared mine as well. I had the option of using a snorkel on the dive, but I decided to go without one so I could get the true experience of free diving with an Ama.
Caption: Nao showed me how to rub leaves on my mask so it wouldn’t fog up.
As she helped me prepare for going into the water, Nao explained that there were many sea urchins in the spot where we were diving, so she suggested that I wear neoprene boots to protect my feet. I also wore a weighted belt to help me stay under the water while looking for shellfish. The rain had stopped by this time and it was a perfect morning for diving.
Caption: My Ama host helped me prepare to get in the water.
We dropped into the salty water and swam about 30 meters from the boat to our diving spot. The spot Nao had selected for our dive was three meters deep and there were definitely numerous urchins on the seafloor, so I was glad to be wearing foot protection. There were also many colourful fish and other curious sea creatures that swam nearby to check us out. Nao was a wonderful guide and I had a fantastic time for the entire I was in the water.
Caption: Once in the water, I was ready to start diving and exploring the area.
Caption: We swam to the diving spot about 30 meters from the boat.
I found a large oyster that was attached to a huge rock about 1.5 meters below the surface and I really wanted to get it. Nao and I worked on the oyster with some of her harvesting tools, but we were unable to detach it from the stone after five minutes of hard work. I loved every second of being in the water, but I was definitely out of energy when it was time to head back to the boat.
Caption: It was a great diving experience and my legs could feel of the burn.
Caption: Nao was an amazing host and she helped me appreciate the Ama traditions.
Upon our return to the port, I got off the boat and waved goodbye to Nao. I took a refreshing shower, changed back into my clothes and jumped in a car with my guide for the drive to Ama Hut Satoumian where we would be eating a seafood BBQ lunch in a traditional Ama hut.
Caption: I waved goodbye to Nao and left for my BBQ seafood lunch.
When we arrived at the Ama Hut Satoumian, I popped into the interpretive center and checked out some the display of the Ama divers’ tools and gear. After that, I made my way across the parking lot to one of the traditional wooden Ama huts where lunch would be prepared and served.
Caption: The traditional tools of the Ama divers on display.
Caption: The traditional wooden Ama hut where lunch would be prepared and served.