‘Breath taking’ pearl diving and sacred territory

Destination Ise! It was suggested to us by our Japanese friends, who joined us on the road trip. In Ise you find the largest sacred shrine of Japan and it was even more busy than we had expected. Religion definitely is not dead: we spotted both old and young, traditional and ‘hip’, people dressed in kimono and in goth clothing (how weird is that?).

The Ise area gained even more popularity after the G7 Summit of 2016. You can see pictures of Prime Minister Abe with Obama, Hollande, Merkel,…anywhere!

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Did you know the pioneer of pearl cultivation is Japanese? Mikimoto has an island named after him, and the pearls and a make-up line, and…

What most interested me: the women pearl divers! They dive without oxygen up to 6m deep, using a special breathing technique (they release the air in a long whistle). We got to see a demonstration of these famous ama (this word comes in handy when you like crossword puzzles 😉 meaning ‘woman of the sea’. I got a bit emotional: it was so elegant, so peaceful, so esthetical and the sound of their breath whistling when they reach the surface is so magical.

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We asked why it are mostly women divers. Apparently it has got to do with body fat (I bet you never thought that would ever be an advantage:-) and that women have more patience to do the job. About nine hundred women still dive today, not so much for pearls but for seafood.

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