Monday, December 8, 2008

day 341 - Mikimoto's Pearl Island

Our Ise visit ended with a trip to Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba. (Actually Lyn dragged me along, but it was a whole lot more interesting than I'd expected.)
The manmade island houses a comprehensive museum dedicated to the science, industry and artistry of pearls and oysters, a memorial to the "Father of Cultured Pearls", a sales outlet and a demonstration of traditional diving techniques.

The story of Kokichi Mikimoto is inspirational. He was the hardworking son of an udon shop owner. A lifetime fascination, no, obsession, with oysters and pearls eventually led to the annual production of 10 million cultured pearls by 350 Japanese pearl farms by 1935.

Three demonstration divers plunged into the freezing grey ocean to retrieve oysters in the traditional manner - a simple face mask, loose cotton suit and no wetsuit. These ama (female divers) are photogenic young ones for the tourists and are the only ama who dive for oysters today. In Toba and Shima there are still 1300 working ama, although these days they dive for abalone, sea urchin, lobster, sea cucumber and octopus. They're an ageing workforce - the average age is 72!

Inserting the seed matrix and piece of mantle to encourage growth is virtually a surgical procedure.

Just a few of Mikimoto's exquisite and priceless artistic works.

No comments: