For over two thousand years, the "Ama" of Japan have been free-diving the open Pacific Ocean for shellfish.
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. A weight belt, float, and net. Fins and wet suits were added only in the 1960s.
A “Funado” deep-water diver in preparation. Free-diving or breath-hold diving is done without oxygen tanks and is difficult and dangerous work.
The "Seiman" and "Doman" symbols are etched into the hood of diver’s wetsuits. Both are ancient symbols believed to ward off danger.
Traditional masks don't permit divers to equalize their ears to release pressure from descent, leaving many with ruptured ear drums.
Most veteran divers haunt the same grounds for decades. Their knowledge of the reef is borne of countless hours of diving.
The "Ama-Goya" is a makeshift hut where divers gather to spend time together warming up from cold winter waters.
The island of Kami-shima was the setting for Yukio Mishima's novel, "The Sound of Waves." It captured the traditional island life of fisherman and free-divers.
Summer, Meoto Iwa, Mie, Japan.