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The Pearl Divers
At Toba, before Kokichi Mikimoto (1858-1954) perfected a method for cultivating pearls here in 1893, Ama, or female divers (women were believed to have bigger lungs), would dive all day, bringing up a thousand oysters, but they wouldn't necessarily find a valuable pearl. Pearl oysters are now farmed, and the famous female divers are a dying breed. On the outlying islands, however, women do still dive for abalone, octopus, and edible seaweed. The quickest and cheapest way to get from Ise to Toba is an 18-minute ride on the JR Line for ¥230.
Mikimoto Pearl Museum. The museum on Pearl Island, 500 yards southeast from Toba Station, explores the history of pearl diving in Japan. 0599/25-2028. www.mikimoto-pearl-museum.co.jp. ¥1,500. Apr.-Nov., daily 8:30-5:30; Dec., daily 9-4:30; Jan.-Mar., daily 8:30-5.
Toba Tourist Information Center. Outside Exit 1 of Kintetsu Toba Station, you'll find an English map of the main attractions. 0599/25-2844. 9-5:30.
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