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Traditional Japanese divers restore 'balance' to the sea

Marine culture is dominated by women in the fishing villages of the Ise Peninsula

These women work as ama sea divers, catching fish and shellfish and collecting seaweed in Japan's Ise Bay. Protective symbols are stitched onto their bonnets to ward off danger and ensure a safe return. (Stephen Mansfield)

OSATSU, Japan -- I am sitting inside a wooden hut, a simple structure known as an amagoya, in the fishing village of Osatsu, on the east coast of the Ise Peninsula, an area of great beauty located on the southwestern coast of Japan's main island of Honshu.

I watch as the women divers, or ama, wearing white bonnets embroidered with star symbols known as seiman, turn oysters over red-hot coals. It is one of those culinary experiences that is as much about culture as food -- in this instance, an ancient marine culture.

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