TSU, MIE PREF. – Eight prefectures on Friday announced the creation of a joint panel to promote and preserve “ama” diving culture and have it designated an intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Ama (sea women) are free-divers who collect pearls, shellfish, sea urchins and seaweed. The practice is thought to be Japanese and Korean.
Led by Mie and Ishikawa, eight prefectures with ama diving industries have joined hands to raise awareness of the traditional fishing method.
There are more than 1,800 ama divers nationwide, but their ranks are dropping due to the population decline, according to the Mie Prefectural Government, which, with roughly 1,000 divers, hosts the bulk of ama in Japan.
“While preserving the value of ama fishing as a cultural heritage, we want to promote the fishing industry aspect and tie it to invigorating the regions” with the ama culture, Mie Gov. Eikei Suzuki, who will chair the panel, said at the inaugural meeting.