Off the coast of Osatsu, I rode on Mr Nakamura’s boat to watch Sayuri and her fellow ama bobbing around in depths of around five metres. They plunge repeatedly to the seafloor, emitting a rasping-like sound as they fill their lungs to dive.
Osatsu is home to the largest remaining concentration of the 700 or so divers that still operate nationally. They bring great prosperity to the local community, not just through the value of their harvest but also courtesy of the Japanese tourists who pay good money for a shoreline barbecue.
As Sayuri dived, her husband explained that most ama practice kachido-style free-swimming. Previously, many weighed themselves down in order to freedive to depths of around 20 metres. “They are too old to do this no w,” he said, explaining that the women dive 60 to 90 minutes per day and hold their breath underwater for around 50 seconds. They call their dives ‘50-second battles’.