Fun Link Friday: Ama, traditional Japanese women divers

This week has highlighted the contributions of women as the International Women’s Day Strike took place on Wednesday, so this week our Fun Link Friday will highlight some amazing ladies who hold an important place in traditional Japanese practices. Messy Nessy posted an article three years ago on ama 海人・海女, female divers that have been on the hunt for oysters and abalone (famously, pearls) in Japan’s coastal villages for thousands of years. I can confirm from my own research that they appear in plenty of premodern sources and did essential work of diving deep into the waters with nothing more than a loincloth, which is pretty incredible!

The traditions of ama were affected by the introduction of Western ideas of modesty in the postwar period (women were forced to cover up with a suit to dive), and very few continue the tradition today. It is a dying piece of traditional Japanese culture, and though some men participated, it was identified with and performed primarily by women. The original article includes a lot of really striking photos by photographer Iwase Yoshiyuki from the mid 20th century, and there is another article on the remaining present-day ama that is worth checking out. Enjoy!

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About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of graduate life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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