The Last of Japan’s ‘Ama Mermaids’

Ama divers have been a part of Japanese culture for over 2,000 years. These women, known for their diving abilities, were once the backbone of Japan’s rich seafood waters in Mie Prefecture. However, the tradition is now at risk due to various factors such as climate change, technological advancements and migration waves.

There are currently only about 2,000 Ama divers left in Japan, with Ms. Hayashi being one of the 500 remaining in Mie Prefecture. This number has drastically decreased from about 4,000 divers in the 1970s. The decline can be attributed to many factors such as increased competition from industrial fishing methods and changes in ocean temperatures caused by global warming.

Despite these challenges, Ama divers continue to dive without oxygen and earn the nickname “mermaids.” In Japan, women are known for their diving abilities due to their body fat distribution and breath-holding capabilities. Initially tasked with catching abalone for temples and emperors, these divers have shown off their impressive skills throughout history.

Ms. Hayashi expresses concerns about the future of Ama culture. She believes that young people are finding it difficult to make a living from traditional practices like Ama diving and pearl farming. The effects of climate change have led to a decline in both industries, causing economic hardship for many families who rely on them for their livelihoods.

The pearl farming industry is also facing extinction due to climate change and urbanization leading to an aging population. Many pearl businesses are facing the risk of disappearing with fewer young people willing to take over the industry.

Despite these challenges, some families are trying to find ways to sustain their businesses while preserving their traditions for future generations.

In conclusion, while the tradition of Ama diving is at risk due to various factors such as climate change and technological advancements, Ms. Hayashi continues her passion for this unique profession while expressing concerns about its future sustainability in Japan’s changing landscape.

By Sophia Gonzalez

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