For nearly 3,000 years, the Ama free-divers of Japan have taken to the open ocean without the assistance of oxygen tanks. Relying on one breath to dive for food, their work is difficult and dangerous. With rapid industrialization in Japan, the lure of opportunity in its big cities is pulling young people away from villages. This is likely one of the final generations of Japanese free divers.
An Ama diver prepares to enter the sea on Japan's Pacific coast. The vast majority of Japanese Ama are women.
The tools of the diving trade are few and simple, including a weight belt, float, and net. Fins and wet suits were added only in the 1960s. The decision not to utilize scuba equipment has been made to conserve natural resources. On a single breath-hold dive, a diver can only collect so many shellfish.
Most divers haunt the same fishing grounds for decades. Their knowledge of the reef is borne of countless hours of diving.
The sun pierces the surface of the ocean during a chilly day in November.
Two symbols are frequently etched in the hood of diver's wet suits. The "Seiman" and "Doman" are both ancient symbols believed to keep divers safe and ward off danger.
Traditional masks don't permit divers to equalize their ears to release pressure from descent. Many divers have ruptured ear drums and are hard of hearing.
Two veteran divers- each with nearly half a century of diving experience- walk toward their diving cove.
The "Ama-Goya" is a makeshift hut where divers gather to spend time together warming up after winter diving and to eat freshly caught shellfish.
The island of Kami-shima, or "God Island" was the setting for Yukio Mishima's novel, "The Sound of Waves." It captured the traditional island life of fisherman and free-divers. Kami-shima is now losing its population base and one sees boarded-up homes.
Muay Thai kickboxing is Thailand's national sport. The fighters who inhabit the vibrant and colorful world of Bangkok's spartan gyms and famed fighting stadiums are typically from poor rural provinces. A select few will ascend from the ranks to find riches, fame, and a name in Thai society. Others will be left with little to show from the sport.
A fighter performs the Wai Khru ceremony before competing, a pre-fight ritual that pays homage to teachers and past fighters and seals the ring from malicious spirits. Muay Thai is deeply steeped in Thailand's Buddhist spiritual traditions and superstitions.
Fighters at the top of the sport attempt to transcend poverty and join the pantheon of its greatest fighters who've become champions in Bangkok's stadiums.
Before his walk to the ring, a fighter's trainer spreads oil liniment on his body while an elder prays over his shoulder for safety. Bangkok's historic Rajadamnern Stadium, home of Muay Thai since 1945.
Gamblers fill the second floor of Rajadamnern stadium, communicating through hand signals to place bets. There is an undercurrent of organized crime in the sport. Fights are sometimes fixed and boxers have even been poisoned- at times nearly to death- to ensure the outcome of fights.
The path to fighting in big stadiums goes through Bangkok's talent-rich gyms, but often begins in the poor rural provinces of Thailand. Promising young fighters from outside provinces are recognized by talent scouts and invited to live and train communally in Bangkok. Living quarters are tight and several boxers may sleep in just one room.
At the highest level, Muay Thai is more than fighting. The "Nak Muay," or Thai fighter masters the art of movement, rhythm, and timing. The best fighters study their opponents intently.
Boxers live a life that consists of disciplined training and fighting, sometimes several fights per month. At the highest levels the sport demands outright dedication.
A win in Bangkok's biggest stadium propels a fighter to bigger fights. The sport affords athletes a life likely not attainable in another way.
A young onlooker watches a fighter moments after being knocked out and removed from the ring by stretcher.
A fighter is attended to by relatives and a doctor after collapsing following an event. Moments later he is rushed to a hospital. Brain injury is a major concern in Muay Thai. The sport of Muay Thai leaves some fighters broken. It can also rescue athletes and their families from the life-long, grinding poverty so prevalent in Thailand. There are no easy answers.
Travels in Asia & Latin America
A couple at a Dia de los Muertos celebration.
Young folk dancers perform among older onlookers at the four-day Señor de Choquekillca festival in the Andean town of Ollantaytambo, Peru.
Teodosio Argandaño Caviedes, traditional hat maker for more than four decades in the Peruvian Andes.
A Hmong man transports charcoal in the highlands of northern Vietnam.
Market in the Central Highlands of Guatemala.
A day that honors past loved ones, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Latin America.
Bhuddist monks in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
The Amazon River at sunrise.
Road to the highlands, northern Vietnam.
Families return each year to paint colorful cemeteries in the Guatemalan highlands. New colors represent a form of renewal.
A storm over the Meoto Iwa rocks in Futami, Mie, Japan.
"Salary Men" eating a late night meal in the Shinjuku Ward of Tokyo, Japan.
Maiko- apprentice Geisha- in the Gion district, Kyoto, Japan.
A newly engaged couple on the Thu BồnRiver, Vietnam.