Japanese women who lived in coastal villages contributed 2,000 years to the home economy by hunting for oysters and abalone (a sea snail that produces pearls). These women were called “Ama” and launched into apnea in long dives into the depths of the Pacific.
The first images of the Ama came in 1920 when the recent graduate Iwase Yoshiyuki managed to photograph them. His shots are, today, probably the only photographic document of a fishing tradition that is now completely extinct.
The Ama were women, some even very young, who dived in the Pacific waters for about 2 minutes of apnea, returning to the surface only a few seconds to breathe and then plunged again. The diving sessions lasted all day, and even reached 180 dives.
The contribution that the Ama gave to the Japanese coastal economy was enormous, and the amount of money they earned in a single day of diving could be greater than what a man took in an entire year of work.
The women worked practically naked, dived into the depths of the sea only with a thong, a knife and a mask, and collected entire networks of pearls and other valuable materials. Then, immediately after the Second World War, with the arrival of tourism, they were forced to wear more opaque costumes.