Mikimoto Pearl Island ミキモト真珠島
Ama divers in Toba
The suspended bridge linking Toba to Mikimoto Pearl Island
A pagoda adorned with pearls on display at the museum
On this private island connected to Toba by a suspension bridge, a museum honors Mikimoto and his pearl oysters.
The area of Toba - a resort next to Ise - is known for the ama, divers specialising in the harvesting of pearl oysters. This special diving tradition, where the divers are known to free dive some 10 meters down and hold their breath for up to 2 minutes, has been practiced for two thousand years. Initiation starts from 12-13 years old, but divers only reach maturity around age 40. The poems of Man'yoshu (c. 760) tell of this tradition, and author Yukio Mishima even dedicated his novel, The Sound of waves (1954) to the ama.
It wasn't the divers, but rather a businessman who turned the pearling tradition into an industrial production: Kokichi Mikimoto (1858-1954), whose statue stands on Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba. It's on this particular island that he developed the technique that would make his fortune: inserting a parasite in the shell of a young oyster, and allow time to make it a pearl...
The museum on the island tells the success story of Mikimoto and his technique. There are brochures available in English to help you understand the subtleties of the process, as well as movies and photographs.
Many pearls and works are on display. To the left of the museum, a large shop offers many items of value from the island - hundreds of souvenir beads are showcased, ranging in price from 1000 to one million yen!
Don't miss diving demonstrations by the ama (several times a day), visible from a pontoon opposite the museum, or from an observation post.
Comments Read comments from our travellers
Is it possible for the tourists to buy loose pearls as souvenirs ?