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History[ edit ] Japanese tradition holds that the practice of ama may be 2, years old. Even in modern times, ama dive without scuba gear or air tanksmaking them a traditional sort of free-diver. Early ama were known to dive for seafood and were honored with the task of retrieving abalone for shrines and imperial emperors.
Ama traditionally wear white as it was believed to ward off sharks. Early divers wore only a loin cloth but in the 20th century the divers adopted an all-white sheer diving uniform in order to be more presentable while diving.
Nowadays, the pearl diving ama are viewed as a tourist attraction at Mikimoto Pearl island. In the s ama were reported active along the coasts of Japan while today ama practice at numbers more along the scale of 60 or 70 divers in a generation.
Activities[ edit ] Women began diving as ama as early as 12 and 13 years old, taught by elder ama. Despite their early start, divers are known to be active well into their 70s and are rumored to live longer due to their diving training and disciplines.
In Japan, women were considered to be superior divers due to the distribution of their fat and their ability to hold their breath.
The world of the ama is one marked by duty and superstition. One traditional article of clothing that has stood the test of time is their headscarves. The headscarves are adorned with symbols such as the seiman and the douman which have the function of bringing luck to the diver and warding off evil.
The ama are also known to create small shrines near their diving location where they will visit after diving in order to thank the gods for their safe return.
Through the practice, many ama were noted to lose weight during the months of diving seasons. In order to prevent the bends when diving, ama practiced a breathing technique in which the divers would release air in a long whistle once they resurfaced from a dive.
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