AUTUMN / FALL
of Ama divers and the region
There are a number of seafood that Ama divers catch and harvest.
Compared to other regions, Ama divers in Ijika have more kinds of seafood to catch so that they can dive almost all year round.
Fishermen in Ijika are also going out to sea for catching a variety of seasonal fish.
Each fishing needs different fishing tools and techniques. That makes us prepare many kinds of equipment, tools, knowledge and skills.
Wakame (Brown Seaweed)
There are two ways to get Wakame, one is naturally grown and the other is cultivated.
Cultivated Wakame is usually softer, and natural one is a little more harder. We harvest naturally grown Wakame in March. Once they are harvested, Ama hung them up to dry in the sun. After they are completely dried, the amount of seaweed becomes 1/10 from the original weight. Everywhere in the town smells of Wakame in spring.
Awabi is the most famous seafood that Ama catch. They stick onto the rock in the water, so they can't be caught by nets. Awabi is only caught by hands. Because this delicacy is quite rare and expensive, and difficult to find and catch, the number of awabi that one Ama can catch indicates her skill of diving and experience.
Kuro Uni (Black Seaurchin)
Ama of Ijika don't sell black seaurchin to the local fish market, but eat them at home.
Crack the outer shell and take out the orange part inside to eat. Because thay have needles, you have to grub them gently.
There are also two other kinds of seaurchins; Bafun Uni and Aka Uni here.
Bafun Uni is more smaller kind of uni, and tastes much sweeter than Kuro Uni.
Aka Uni's needles are more brownish red color. The taste of Aka Uni is more flavorful, but they are getting fewer lately and becoming more and more difficult to find them.
Sazae (Turban Shell)
Some other regions allow to catch Sazae in summer, but here in Ijika, we only can catch them from October to December.
Some skilled Ama can catch 100kg of Sazae in one day. The size of Sazae is almost like a woman's fist, so it is not so big. But when it becomes 100kg, you can't carry them back to the beach by yourself. Sazae season is physically tough for Ama divers.
Ise-ebi (Spiny Lobster)
Here in Ijika, spiny lobsters are mostly caught by fishing nets and Ama don't catch them by hand. Only once a year, we have a special day to dive for catching spiny lobsters.
Compared to other kinds of shellfish and seaweed, catching spiny lobsters is technically difficult because they swim very fast and they are quite strong in the water. You must use both hand to hold one. Otherwise they hit your hand by the tail and run away.
It is prohibited to fish spiny lobsters from May 1st to the end of September.