Guide to Noto’s Satoyama and Satoumi (Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems) by Photos and Movies

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  • Ama Divers (female shell divers)
Name
Ama Divers (female shell divers)
Address
Ama-machi and Wajimasaki-machi, Wajima City
Category
Life
Class
Traditional technique
Age
17th century~19th century
Designation
Ishikawa Prefecture Intangible Folk Cultural Asset (June 2014)
Comment
The history of the female shell divers of Wajima goes back more than 400 years. Wearing only a wetsuit and swimming goggles, the divers dive to a depth of over 10 meters, where they catch abalone and turban shells, and collect seaweed. The main diving points are Hegura Island and Nanatsu Island, 50 km north of the Wajima coast. The prerequisites for becoming a shell diver are a strong heart, a large lung capacity, and good eyesight. At present, the number of female shell divers in Wajima, who range from teenagers to women in their 70’s, is around 200, which makes them the second-largest group of ama in Japan, after Mie Prefecture. The number of Japanese female divers has decreased from 10,000 to 2,000 over the past 35 years. However, Wajima is maintaining its 200, and preserving the traditional ama culture. Wajima’s ama diving was designated as an intangible folk cultural asset by Ishikawa Prefecture in 2014. “The Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Wajima Ama” has been approved as a Satoumi treasure of Ishikawa.
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