"To Bond," Ian Fleming wrote in his 1964 novel, "You Only Live Twice," "they all seemed beautiful in the soft evening light ... the gleaming, muscled buttocks, cleft by the black cord, the powerful thong round the waist with its string of oval lead weights."

Fleming's eroticized description of an ama-san, the pearl divers of Ise-Shima, Mie Prefecture, came back to me as I stared transfixed, not a little bewildered, at a poster outside Toba's tourist information office. Here, over five decades on from 007's fictional entrancement, was the highly charged image of a young diver in a transparent wet suit — the very embodiment of the erotic and cute. And how to interpret the rather prominent lighthouse in the background?

Instances of semi-nudity in photography and other forms of visual representation are common enough in Japan. Yoshiyuki Iwase's series on the female divers of this region and Italian photographer Fosco Maraini's work on the same theme were serious studies that, perhaps because of their male perspectives, are tinged with a yearning for their subjects, who come across as almost voluptuous.