Fully enjoying Ama divers’ hometown “Pearl Farm Visit & Making traditional Japanese Sandals” - Learn About Akoya Oyster Farming and Make Beautiful Pearl Keepsakes

Fully enjoying Ama divers’ hometown “Pearl Farm Visit & Making traditional Japanese Sandals” -  Learn About Akoya Oyster Farming and Make Beautiful Pearl Keepsakes

Ise-shima is home to the Japanese cultured pearl industry that was started by Kokichi Mikimoto at the end of the 19th century. The spectacular coastal waters of Mie near Ise-Shima are dotted with islands that provide a perfect environment for the numerous Akoya oyster farms operating in the area today. Participants in the Fully enjoying Ama divers’ hometown “ Pearl Farm Visit & Making traditional Japanese Sandals ” experience will learn about traditional harvesting and make their own accessories using the luminous pearls. This experience is available April to December and costs ¥25,000-34,000 per person, depending on the group size. The start time is 1:00 PM and the entire experience takes about four hours.

Written by Vern Begg
About the Author:
Trying new experiences and meeting people is what drives my passion for traveling. In Japan, there is always something new to try and the friendly nature of Japanese people ensures that these opportunities will be fun and educational. I especially enjoy being outside and doing activities that involve nature.

The natural beauty of Ise-Shima is breathtaking and from the right vantage point, you can see dozens of small islands in the quiet waters off of the coast. Strategically placed in the water between the islands there are also many oyster farms that produce some of the most beautiful cultured pearls on the planet.

Caption: The calm waters in Ise-Shima are perfect for oyster farming.

After arriving at Kashikojima Station, it was clear that Shima city had a thriving pearl harvesting industry. The many jewellery shops and pearl-themed businesses in the area around the station created a quaint atmosphere that can only be found in places where people make their living from the sea. The Akoya oysters that are local to this area produce what many people consider to be the world’s most valuable cultured pearls. 

Caption: Many of  the shops near Kashikojima Station are connected to the pearl industry.

I had come to Shima city to learn about how the pearls are produced and to a visit a working Akoya oyster farm. I was looking forward to taking beautiful pearls out of the oysters myself and then making an accessory to take home with me as a keepsake from my visit. Before that, however, I would be taking a boat tour around the islands and Akoya oyster farms in the company of a local Ama diver. 

Caption: My hosts for the day getting on the boat for our tour.

It was a beautiful day when I met my English-speaking guide and Ama host at the dock to get on the boat for the tour. We headed out onto the water and my guide did a wonderful job of explaining some history about the area and the pearl harvesting industry that was started over 100 years ago by Kokichi Mikimoto. 

Caption: The boat tour was relaxing and informative.

The many islands we passed made me think of ancient tales of pirates and life on the sea. Floating in between the islands, arrangements of black buoys marked the Akoya oyster farming areas. Sections of the Akoya oyster farms were quite large and spread everywhere. Our captain navigated us through the water with ease and the boat tour was a very relaxing and educational experience.

Caption: The black buoys marked the location of an oyster farm.

I don’t usually think of Japan is being a tropical place, but some of the islands that we passed definitely had a tropical feel to them. The palm trees and blue skies were exactly what I needed to help me chill out and enjoy island life for a day. It was a wonderful tour and when we returned to the dock, I said goodbye to my Ama host before we made our way to the pearl extraction and accessory making experience.

Caption: There is a nice tropical feel to this part of Japan.

Our next stop on the tour was Pearl Miki, an oyster farm and pearl accessory making business located in a lovely little cove that is surrounded by lush green forests. The owner of Pearl Miki, Yoshiko Yamaoka (Yamaoka-san) was a friendly lady and she welcomed me with a big smile. This farm was different than the open water locations we had seen earlier. It was more like a floating platform built of wooden boards that made it possible to easily access the nets containing the oysters below the surface of the water.

Caption: Yamaoka-san was a friendly host.

Yamaoka-san started the experience by showing me around her floating oyster farm. My helpful guide translated all of the explanations as I learned about how many years it takes for the oysters to produce pearls of the proper quality and size for making accessories. 

Caption: My guide was very helpful during the experience.

As she pulled up each net to show us the different stages of growth, Yamaoka-san moved around the wooden platform with the ease of someone who been doing this most of her life. It was obvious that her work was her passion and that she takes great pride in producing perfect pearls. 

Caption: Yamaoka-san moved around on her floating farm with ease.

Because of the mini-ecosystem the floating farm created, many sea creatures were naturally drawn to the area in their search for an easy snack. As we looked into the water, numerous puffer fish could be seen swimming around under the platform looking for a treat. 

Caption: Puffer fish would gather under the platform looking for food.

Tourist attractions covered by this article