Ama – proof positive we should never be bored.

1 Ama Bluff-gazingNot when there are things like this in the world to learn about. I never knew about Ama, or women of the sea. A 2000 year old tradition in coastal Japan, these beautiful hardy women would dive up to 25 meters with no equipment in search of seaweed, abalone, snails and other shellfish.

4.0 Ama Divers Sea GazingThey had to maintain a certain amount of body fat to survive the frigid waters and would huddle together around bonfires to warm up between dives, eat and gossip. It was treacherous work, but Ama could make more money in a short 20 day season than a man could in a whole year. Plus, they got to hang out with their lady friends all day long. Ama were a hot commodity and sought after for marriage. They continued to dive deep into old age.

Iwase Last AmaWhen goggles were invented at the turn of the century, Ama were early adopters, but mostly continued to dive only in shorts and cloths wrapped around their hair. There weren’t really any men around and diving in their skivvies afforded them more freedom and actually kept them warmer. Remember, they didn’t have lycra back then.

4 Sandy FrontsI’m struck by how strong and happy these women look. How free. Especially at a time when women the world over were still fighting to be heard (and are still). These gorgeous photos are the work of Iwase Yoshiyuki, who wrote of his beautiful subjects: “They carried the joys and sorrows of those living with the sea . . . I immersed myself in their world.”


Iwase084STUH. NING.

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