Sun, Nov 25, 2018 - Page 15 News List

Japan’s ‘ama’ grannies cling
to their free-diving fishing

Dating back thousands of years in Japan, the profession is in danger of disappearing as younger generations of women move to the city in search of more stable jobs

By Anne Beade  /  AFP, TOBA, Japan

She sat warming herself up around a fire in a hut where the women gather after fishing to catch up and recharge.

“If we want to protect and transmit the values of the ama, their way of life, we have to open the door to strangers, beyond the tradition of passing things through the family,” Kogure said.

“If we can accept that change, then the future need not be so dark,” Kogure said, adding that the government and local authorities should offer financial support to the divers.

In the neighboring village of Osatsu, young recruits were eagerly welcomed.

Ayami Nagata, a 39-year-old mother of five, began her ama training last year, following in the footsteps of her grandmother.

“I don’t know how to swim, but I am practicing in shallow areas to start with,” she said.

She is not joining the profession for the money: each catch goes for only about ¥10,000 (US$88.54).

Nagata said that for her, it is about escape: “These moments of freedom far from the family.”

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