Ama-san are Japanese women. The culture of these women is over 5000 years old. Deep sea divers that would traditionally dive naked with a loin cloth and a knife in their back to pry off and collect abalone and oysters and other shellfish, and seaweed. Sometimes weights are used to go down faster. They are connected with a rope that helps them to climb up faster to a wooden tub so they can leave their catch and rest before going back down.
Women are said to be able to free dive deeper than men from up to 8 meters down holding their breath for two minutes without any aid of oxygen. Even in very cold water they start early in the morning. Usually with their husbands in the boat. This is generations of women, including grandmothers who dove together. The tradtion was passed from mothers to daughters. After their catch they would sit on the beach with their family and kids and all eat breakfast. A very matriarchal society in a time when women were supposed to be at home. They were part of the work force and very much respected.
After WW2 when there was western judgment about nudity, the woman started to wear clothes and now with wetsuits.
There are less Ama san now as the old culture has changed but you can still find them throughout Japan.
Of course when diving for shellfish, sometimes an oyster is found with a pearl in it. Pearls are famous in Japan, mostly worn for family occasions but more and more they are used by fashion designers and trendy for younger girls. The design is different because with younger women, most prefer to wear small pearls with delicate patterns.
For us pearls will always make us think of the Ama-san and a strong beautiful femininity that we respect.
We have some small pearls at our store. If you come by please have a look.