In search of the Japanese bearded clam

traditional ama woman diver girls 06.28.2006
…. a rope, tethered to a wooden buoy.
She takes a deep breath and dives.
Holding her breath, she descends more than 10 meters, and rapidly scours the bedrock for abalone and other shellfish hidden among the seaweed. She holds her breath for 60 seconds and then comes back up for air.
Yoshida is a traditional ama woman diver…many consider most romantic, women’s occupations.

“Romantic” ?!? Well, what is not explained is that Japanese ama divers ( 海女さん) used to dive topless in warm weather and they wore the traditional, revealing, white, wet T-shirts in cool water. In addition, these ladies were independent and wealthly from the abalone they collect and therefore welling to have sex with any man they desired (and who be lured by their money). I’ve certainly enjoyed the ama‘s attention when I have met them skin diving. What a great bunch of “girls” … average age is 65. Click on the snapshots below to get the full picture.
Japanese ama divers used to dive topless . Japanese ama divers used to dive topless

All this pictures come from Shirahama Ama Matsuri (festival) on July 21 in a fishing community at the tip of Chiba Prefecture’s Boso Peninsula. In this festival about 100 white-clad female divers bearing torches swim out into the sea against a backdrop of fireworks. July 20-21 (8:30 p.m.). Nojimasaki Todai Hiroba (a 35-minute bus ride from JR Tateyama Station). Call 0470-38-4412.

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I'm a pale, alien, quadruped who has worked for 25+ years at "Maybe-the-Largest Inc." in Tokyo.

13 thoughts on “In search of the Japanese bearded clam”

  1. Do you know if they go abalone caving too?

    I live in CA and abalone diving is popular in Mendocino but I am not a good swimmer so I’ve always considered abalone caving. It’s also quite cold around there – how warm is it in Japan where they do that?

  2. “How warm is it in Japan where they do that?”

    “Warm” is a relative term. After an hour, any “abalone caving” as you call it gets old, ha, ha.

    (The water in the summer Japanese water is warm — above 70F/21C.)

  3. When I first visited Japan in 1964, my father’s driver took us down to Shizuoka, “to see the ama girls.” The “official” Ama shows were by then very boring with old obaasan diving in white floppy long-johns (topless ama diving had died out in the early 50s). However with connections, a proper naked ama show was easy to see.

    Normally, naked ama shows were a hinky way the younger ama could make some easy spare cash and as a little blond, blue-eyed boy I was the instant star of the show—My dad and I ended up diving with the girls in our skivvies.

    ama-girl ad

  4. japanese ama diver girl

    Japanese Mermaids: Ancient Pearl Hunters of the Sea
    Messy Nessy Chic | 2012/11/20
    The ama don’t make as much money as the did 40 years ago, another reason why the job is unattractive to the younger Japanese women. Nevertheless they have managed to support themselves and their families entirely, while their husbands, often fishermen, are away most of the year.
    Talk about super women. In the 1964 Bond film, You Only Live Twice, Hollywood shed some light on this phenomenon when they featured a “Bond girl” who was a sensationalized ama (as well as a spy ofcourse). Kissy Suzuki is the only Bond girl to ever bear James Bond’s child.


  5. Underwater girl is loved, sad, fleeting.
    Once she comes out of the water,
    she is no longer the girl who was underwater.
    — 古賀学(Manabu Koga)

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