Face-to-Face with the Real Diving Heroines of Ise Shima at Ama Hut Satoumian

Face-to-Face with the Real Diving Heroines of Ise Shima at Ama Hut Satoumian

As you’re probably well aware, Japan loves seafood. And not just the fish and octopus that we’re used to, but a whole plethora of marine life is down in the depths, digestible, delicious, and demanding to be harvested. Enter the Amasan.

Written by Chad Martin
-Author's Introduction
My otaku side brought me to Nagoya, Japan in 2012, but I stayed for the food, countryside towns, and gorgeous mountain scenery. I was born and raised on the east coast of the US, but I dare say I never grew up. I never shut up about Japan.

It was a clear December day when I found myself on a bus in Ise-Shima, snaking around to the southern side of Ago Bay. Pulling up to my stop, I was deposited before a sandy beach and jagged coastline. The salty scent of the Pacific was strong. On the vast beach, there was only a handful of people. It would be a great spot for taking a dip and having a picnic in warmer weather.

Caption: Never been a beach person, but after going to one as beautiful as this on a December morning, I’ve come to realize that maybe it’s just that I don’t like crowds.

After working up an appetite trudging around in the sand, I found exactly what I had come for.

Not a restaurant. Not a museum. This is the Ama Hut Satoumian Experience! First head past the huts to the museum. There, you can check out the various meal courses they offer, complete with optional seasonal specialties like Ise Prawns and abalone. The courses range in price from \2200 for the “Tea Time Menu” to \9900 for the “Special Deluxe Course”. Helpful staff will help you choose and guide you along your Amasan Hut Experience.

In the museum, read about the Amasan’s methods, see their tools, and definitely don’t miss the chance to take your picture with none other than President Obama and his friends!

Caption: A large international summit was held in the area in 2016, so you might still see things like this around town.

With its video, exhibits and artwork, the museum is a great way to dive into the lore and culture of the Amasan, who were first recorded in history in 3AD. The tools of their trade are on display, and you can touch some of them. These female divers brave the frigid depths to collect all kinds of shellfish and seaweed, even pearls in the days before they were cultivated. Get into the spirit by trying on the traditional Amasan diving gear! That’s really just good advice for anywhere you travel. If someone offers to let you try on some kind of gear or costume, you should definitely do it. 

Caption: Note the Amasan chillin in their hut in the painting. That’s exactly what you’re here to do! You should be psyched.

A particularly cool item in the museum is the traditional buoy. Called “bindama”, they are glass orbs wrapped with cords. They were used by fishermen and divers back in the day. I saw them decorating different areas of Ise-Shima, like this one on the side of the road in front of someone’s house.

In case you didn’t realize it because you flew into Japan and went directly to the Amasan Experience, every organization in Japan has some kind of mascot. I present to you, Aoshima Megu!

Caption: What’s not to like about her? Check out her Facebook page and YouTube channel!

To be honest, Megu is a bit misleading. The average Amasan diver these days is in her sixties! There are many experienced divers still around.

Once you and your gracious hosts are ready, you’ll head outside to the Amasan hut itself for the main event. It’s a cozy cabin that looks out over the nearby beach and can host multiple groups at once. You’ll be sitting right with your own Amasan host who cooks up tantalizing delicacies over the coals right in front of you. As a lot of the food you eat has been gathered by these very Amasan, it’s incredibly fresh. Much of it still living, in fact. Even the hijiki seaweed in the rice and the aosa seaweed in the miso soup is harvested by them.

Caption: I asked my Amasan host where they harvested the shellfish and she pointed out the window and said, “over there, by that island.”

Now, I should be honest. I like seafood in general, but there is some seafood that I’m not a big fan of. I’d never tried noble scallops or turban shell before, and I don’t usually eat squid, but I’d come too far to not try everything the Amasan had to offer. 

Nakanishi-san, my Amasan hostess for the afternoon, knew a lot of the names of the foods in English and asked if I’d tried them before. I’m certain she could smell my apprehension even over the savory goodness before us. I said that I hadn’t, but that I was excited and a bit nervous to try them.

I watched as everything was prepared very simply, using nothing more than salt or soy sauce and cooked over the hot coals. The first up was the squid. And I’m happy to say it relieved me of my tension and gave me the bravery I needed to push onward. The first thing I noticed was how tender it was. Unlike any squid I’d had before, it wasn’t chewy or rubbery, but tender. Honestly not sure I can eat squid elsewhere again, for fear that it will just disappoint in comparison. 

I was really interested in the turban shell. Japanese people seem to be somewhat divided over whether or not it’s good, so trying it was a bit daunting.

Caption: Turban Shells are the ones on the right. In Japanese, they’re known as “sazae”.

So, you gotta pull the meat of out of the shell with a toothpick, just like how you would with escargot, if you’ve ever had the mediocre experience of doing that. What came out of that shell made my blood freeze, and Nakanishi-san could see it in my face. Luckily, she advised me to not eat the black bit at the end. “Some people don’t like that.” she said. I tore into the top part of the creature, leaving the black, “bitter” part behind... and was pleasantly surprised! It was toothsome and meaty and didn’t need anything but the salt of the sea it came from to season it. 

Finally came what I was most excited about. A dried portion of yellowtail, filling and sweet. Like a jerky, but much softer and still flaky. What I didn’t expect was the barracuda. I had no idea people ate them! Also, I have little experience eating a whole fish, but Nakanishi-san guided me through it patiently. It was actually really tasty and fun to eat. 

Despite how great the food was, the best part of the experience was the time I had to chat with a real, experienced Amasan. I asked her about the unique workplace hazards in her line of work, how it’s changed through the years, and lots of other things. But really, if I told you what she said about all that, it’d kinda be like spoiling a movie, wouldn’t it? Be sure to relax and try to chat with your Amasan in whatever Japanese you can muster, and I’m they’ll try the same in English. The Amasan Experience has become quite popular and they receive guests from all over the world these days. 

Be sure to make reservations in advance via their website! They recommend going by car, but if you can’t rent a car, take a bus to Azurihama Bus Stop. It’s only a few minutes walk from there.

Amasan Hut ExperienceSatoumian

〒517-0704Mie-ken,Shima-shi,Shima-cho, Koshika 2279


60 minutes by bus fromUgata Station on the Kintetsu Shima Line

Take the bus toward GozaMinato and get off at Azurihama

It’s a 3 minute walk fromthe bus stop

<Business Hours>

11am to 8pm



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