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The tradition of "Ama" (female divers) in Ise-Shima is more than 2000-year-old. In this cultural 1-night 2-day trip you will closely examine the unique Japanese Ama culture and will discover the secrets behind the production of Mie's famous pearls.
- Visit Japan's best pearl museum, Mikimoto Pearl Island
- Sail around little islands of the scenic Ago Bay on a sightseeing cruise
- Enter a pearl factory and learn more about the pearl production process in Mie
- Go to a real Ama hut and see how Ama dive in the sea to collect seafood
- Make your own pearl accessory and take it as a souvenir from your trip
In May 2016 Mie prefecture in Central Japan will host the next G7 Summit. The main venue of the event will be on Kashikojima island in the scenic Ago Bay, the homeland of Mie's pearl cultivation culture. The history of Mie's pearls began in 1893 when the local entrepreneur Mikomoto Kokichi succeeded in cultivating pearls for the first time in Japan, but the origins of Ise-Shima region's fishing culture can be traced back to the 2000-year-old traditions of the female divers Ama. Dressed only in white clothes and without any air tanks, the Ama divers have been sustaining the lives of local people in Ise-Shima region for centuries with their skillful techniques of collecting seafood. After the pearl cultivation in Mie began, the female divers helped for collecting oysters and boosted the development of the local industry. Nowadays Mikimoto-branded pearls are famous worldwide, while the Ama divers still preserve their traditional culture and distinctive lifestyle.
In this cultural and educational 2-day 1-night trip you will visit Ise-Shima area and immerse yourself completely in the realm of Ama divers and Mie's pearl cultivation. You will be fascinated to discover not only beautiful scenery around the splendid Ago Bay, but also an ingenuous local culture that characterizes the entire region. At the end of this trip you will understand why Japan chose exactly this location as the venue for the next G7 Summit in 2016.
Below is the itinerary of this tour. You can choose between two different seasonal options for the end of Day 1 and Day 2:
Day 1 (self-guided)
9:10 (recommended starting time) - Take the limited express train from Kintetsu Nagoya Station to Toba Station (about 100 minutes).
10:48 - Arrive at Toba and go directly to Mikimoto Pearl Museum. Watch a live Ama diving performance from the observation deck and learn more about the history of pearl cultivation in Mie.
12:00 - Have lunch with fresh seafood in one of the restaurants near Mikimoto Pearl Island
12:29 - Take the Kintetsu line train from Toba Station to the final Kashikojima Station (about 40 minutes by local train or 30 minutes by limited express train).
13:30 - Ride on the sightseeing cruise "Esperanza" along the island-dotted Ago Bay! The Spanish-style galley boat will also take you to a model pearl factory where you will observe the process of creating pearls from oysters.
14:30 - Return to Kashikojima port. From here you can choose between the main two options of this trip:
Option 1 (Available mainly from mid March to end of April; please ask about availability after April): Take a taxi to Pearl Gourmet Inn Takesho hotel, or a boat from Kashikojima to Wagu port where you will be picked up, and check-in. A mini-van will take you to a nearby Ama female diver hut where you will have seafood dinner in a traditional atmosphere. The Ama divers will cook the dinner on the sunken fireplace in front of you!
Option 2 (Available all year round): Take a taxi to Haifu Onsen Hotel and spend a relaxing evening in a room with private hot spring on the balcony overlooking the bay.
Day 2 (guided):
Option 1 (Available mainly from mid March to end of April): Meet your guide. From 6:30 am before breakfast you will visit the local seafood market and observe the lifestyle of local fishermen who have just brought fresh catch of the famous Ise lobsters. After this interesting fish market visit you will return to Pearl Gourmet Inn Takesho for breakfast and then ride on a boat to observe the actual daily activities of Ama female divers in the open sea! This is a very rare opportunity to see Ama divers doing their actual job and the activity is not set up specially for tourists. In case of bad weather, the boat ride will be substituted by a walk with Ama divers around the rural village. Return to the hotel to make your own pearl accessories! After you make your own souvenir your trip ends a little before noon. You can explore the town on your own or return to Kashikojima with your guide.
Option 2 (Available all year round): Meet your guide at the lobby of your hotel. Go to Yokoyama Observatory by taxi and enjoy the breath-taking panorama view of the entire Ago Bay. Stroll down the streets of the little town before heading towards Satoumi-an, a traditional-style Ama female divers hut where you will have seafood lunch in a traditional atmosphere and learn more about the distinctive local Ama culture. After lunch you will go to the pearl studio to make your own souvenir accessories from pearls! The tour will end at Kashikojima or Ugata Station.
Enjoy the blessings of Ise-Shima's nature and the rich cultural heritage of the Ama female divers in this unique 2-day trip to Mie prefecture!
Note: There will be no guide on Day 1 but you can follow the itinerary that we provide. Entrance to the Mikimoto Pearl Museum and the sightseeing cruise are included in the price.
IMPORTANT: Please book this tour at least one week in advance.
Kintetsu-Nagoya Station, Nagoya
The sightseeing galley boat Esperanza is under maintenance in mid February. Instead, smaller boats will be used.
In high season (New Year holidays, Golden Week and public holidays) it's possible our favored hotels will become fully booked. If your booking request comes late during peak season we can still offer this experience so long as we can secure a guide, but you may need to pay a different price for the hotel.
In that case, we will advice you of such additional costs at the time of booking and you may choose to top up your payment or have the request cancelled and refunded.
What you need to bring
Overnight belongings. If possible, bring a backpack instead of a suitcase.