An Ama, Risa

BY RIKAKO SATO | Interviewed on August 28, 2018


- Name: Risa

- Ama since 2016 summer.

- Not married

- Owner of a Japanese restaurant '久兵衛 Kyubey'

- Born and raised in Osatsu, Toba.


Contact Her

- Visit her restaurant directly

  Address: 1231 Osatsu, Toba city, Mie prefecture

  TEL: 0599-33-6808

- Language: Japanese only


Photo from:
Photo from:

This article was made by Rikako, an Ama diver of Ijika in Toba city, through several personal interviews to know the story of each Ama diver.

You just opened a japanese restaurant this summer (2018). Isn’t that hard to manage two different jobs as an Ama and a restaurant owner?

It’s terribly hard!

I couldn’t go Ama diving since my restaurant opened on June 22nd, but I finally could make it happen to go Ama diving a few days ago. It was so good! I was worrying about the time to finish diving because I had to go back to the restaurant before the lunch rush, so I couldn’t dive until the last-minute. I must swim from the beach to where we dive, so I can’t really dive for one and a half hours due to the time of going and returning. That’s far easier if I can get on a boat and go start diving and come back by boat. I will be able to save time and dive longer. Handling two different jobs on ones own is very tough. But I don’t think I opened this restaurant if I wasn’t an Ama.

What have you been doing before you became an Ama, and why did you decide to come back to Osatsu?

I have experienced many different jobs. I don’t like staying at one place for long. I was in Yokohama for 5 years, but I got lumber hernia and had difficulty working there. It was not the direct reason of quitting the job, but I decided to move back to my home town. After I recovered, I worked at a pub in Shima city. The owner of the pub repeatedly said to me, “Lisa, you should try Ama diving, I am sure that you definitely love it”. I think that was the first time I thought of becoming an Ama. I was back to Osatsu when I was 28 years old. But in any cases, I think I would come back here before 30. Living in a big city was fun, and you’ll get used to it. But I preferred life in the country.

So, did you decide to become an Ama thanks to the pub owner?

Umm, not exactly. He was a motive of me becoming interested in Ama. But it was not that strong feeling that I could decide “Okay, I’ll be an Ama!”. One summer day, my grandmother told me to go to the sea in front of my house to do Ama diving. She already retired Ama, but she still had her wetsuit and diving tools, so she said to me that I could use them. To be honest, it was just too ordinary for me to go to the sea, and it was not a place I dare to go. But I thought I can earn some money if I get some seafood. I had just quit my previous job, and didn’t have income at that time. So, I went to the sea alone. But once I arrived at the beach and started going into the water, it was so exciting! So, I really got into it.

Can you tell me the first day of your Ama?

I went to my first Ama diving by myself, wearing my grandmother’s old pair of wetsuit because I didn’t have my own ones yet. It was a bit small to me, but I could wear it. So, I thought it would be fine. When I was diving, I was so surprised how hard Ama diving was! I couldn’t breathe well and I could hardly get enough oxygen for the next dive. I have never imagined that Ama, some of them are 80 years old, were diving in this difficult conditions. I was really shocked. I couldn’t continue diving anymore, so I went out from the water earlier than other Ama who dived around me. But it was so funny that the reason why I couldn’t breathe well was because the wetsuit was just too small for me. When I got my own wetsuit later, it was so comfortable and I could breathe normally!

Who did you go diving with after you became an Ama?

I started diving alone, but later I was diving with a friend of my grandmother. But one day, I went to dive different from where she decided to go, so we didn’t dive together. In the morning, I met her and said goodbye, but I felt something was wrong with her. I was in a hurry, so I didn’t really pay attention to it and left the place. But later, I heard she felt sick while she was diving, and asked a man on a boat to pick her up and came back to the town. Results of a test, there was nothing wrong with her. But her family worried about her and banned her to go diving anymore. Fortunately, I could be a member of the other team of my current mentor, a male Ama, and my friends. So, we go diving together now.

What words will be popped into your head when you thing of ‘Ama’? And let me know why you chose those words.

‘Old ladies’ ... and ‘abalone’. When I think of Ama, old ladies with many wrinkles on their faces come up to my mind. I could feel their power and experiences from those deep wrinkles. Young Ama  like us are too young to call ourselves Ama. I think we are not yet ‘Ama divers’, but just ‘divers’. I wish I could be like them when I get old. Abalone is just a special thing for us. It is very expensive seafood, and difficult to catch for sure. There are sometimes I can’t catch an abalone at one dive. Then, I have to dive to the same place again after stabilized my breathing. But if it is too cloudy in the water or too wavy, and I can’t find that abalone anymore. That’s so frustrating, and I can’t bear with the feeling!

Did your impression of Ama be changed after you became one of them?

I am feeling that Ama is such a mysterious being. Ama is, I don’t know what to say, but is very special. Human being becomes so small in front of the nature. When I found an abalone in the sea, I  feel appreciation unintentionally. I saw them living in the sea, and catching them means I kill these abalones. I took lives to live. That made me feel guilty. This was one of the reasons why I got into Ama. I could feel invisible mysterious world and lives of creatures, and existence of gods. I am attracted to those things of Ama.

AS A PERSON WHO Was BORN AND RAISED IN OSATSU, Do you think it was a natural choice for you to be an Ama? There are some people who want to be Ama and moved to fishing villages, can you tell me your opinion about staying at your home town to live?

For us people who were born and raised in Osatsu, ‘To be Ama’ was not that difficult choice or a thing which takes a big commitment. It was a natural choice of living here. So, I don’t quite understand why there are people from other cities who want to know about Ama and want to become Ama. There are everything in cities. Why on earth are they interested in Ama? It’s a mystery for me. About us becoming Ama, veteran Ama tease us like “Can you really catch abalones?”, but they never oppose or criticize us. Because Ama is a dangerous job, they worry about us but often give valuable advice for us to be good Ama.