Written by Bonnie Chow
-Table of Contents-
Shinmei Shrine in Osatsu City
Osatsu is a small fishing village.
After arriving at Toba station, our trip begins by visiting Osatsu, a small fishing village with the greatest number of ama (woman shellfish divers) in Japan where you can see how this profession sustains nature. It is believed that the history of women diving in the ocean to catch shellfish started more than 2,000 years ago and the traditional diving method remains the same. Without using an oxygen tank, ama divers wear monocular diving masks that provide a wide field of view to catch seaweed and abalone even nowadays. The techniques developed for ama diving, are unique and recognized as cultural assets of Japan.
Souvenir shop of Osatsu has drawings of ama.
We stopped by Ishigami-san in Shinmei Shrine, one of the three goddesses of Toba, who are said to grant women’s wishes, which has been attracting a lot of attention in recent years, and worshipers are constantly coming from all over Japan.
Ama divers visited Shimei Shrine to pray for the safety and good catches.
Originally, local divers have been praying for good catches and safety since ancient times.
Red torii gates next to the popular Ishigami-san in Shinmei Shrine.
Before an ama makes their dives, they wear two patterns as talismans for safety in the sea. The lattice mark, known as Doman, represents many eyes keeping watch against evil spirits. The star-shaped Seman is drawn with a single stroke, symbolizing a diver’s safe return. It is also written in the amulet that can be bought in the shrine.
The grid-like Doman and star-shaped Seman, talismans of ama.
It takes about 5 minutes to reach the Ama Culture Museum if you wish to learn more about ama in the Ise Shima area.
Drop by the Ama Culture Museum for more information.
Visiting Ousatsu-Kamado Ama Hut
After visiting the shrine and museum, it’s time for us to have a light meal and chat with ama to understand more about the traditional culture of Osatsu village. Today we visited, Ousatsu-kamado Ama Hut. After an 8-minute walk, we arrived at Ousatsu-kamado Ama Hut, where divers rest and warm themselves up after diving in the morning.
The Ama Hut has a fabulous sea view.
Fresh seafood including scallops, octopus, clams, and mochi are served with tea. The famous Ise lobster and abalone can be requested at an additional cost.
Fresh charcoal-grilled seafood is served by ama.
When the ama were cooking for us, we took this opportunity to chat with them to learn more about their daily lives.
Interesting chat with ama divers.
The ama diver who cooked for us has been working as an ama since she was 20 and this year will be her 50th anniversary. Now, there are only a few hundred divers in this area and in order not to over-catch, ama divers stop diving in the resting season. Sitting on a bench in the ama hut facing the ocean, we are so lucky to interact with the experienced women divers and taste the charcoal-grilled delicious seafood to understand more about the valuable culture of this area.
It is a delightful time to interact with ama.
The next stop is Yokoyama Observatory where visitors can take in a breathtaking panoramic view over the iconic Ago Bay in Ise Shima. This observatory can be easily accessed from the station by taxi or on foot in 40 minutes. The stunning scenery from the 200-meter-high observatory is worth the effort as the 60 small islands, azure sky, and lush greenery are all in front of you. It is a once-in-a-lifetime view that you can’t miss on the trip.
Breath-taking view of Ago Bay from Yokoyama Observatory.
Kashikojima España Cruise
Would you like to go on a Spanish pirate ship to sail across the Ago Bay where we just watched in the observatory? The ship is built to resemble a Spanish tall ship of the 16th century Age of Exploration and this 50-minute leisure cruise is comfortable as the cruise is making a round trip in the deeper waters.
Boarding on the Espana pirate ship to sail across Ago Bay.
If you are a Japanese anime fan, I would recommend you head to the third floor to enjoy the breeze and touch the helm as if you were steering a pirate ship.
Touch the helm on the third floor as if you were steering a pirate ship.
The round-trip fee is ¥1,800 and ¥1,000 for adults and children respectively. This cruise through the deep blue bay and the ria coast will never disappoint you.
A deluxe and comfortable 50-minute cruise through Ago Bay’s deep waters and the ria coast.
Shima Mediterranean Village
The last stop of our trip is a spectacular resort villa, a replica of five Mediterranean towns called Shima Mediterranean Village.
The fountain of the village looks magnificent.
We came on a day trip but were already impressed with all the details in the villa as if we were in Spain.