South Korea & Japan: Temples, Shrines & Seaside Treasures

Day 11 – Friday, October 21, 2022 – Toba; Meet Local Ama

We could smell breakfast as soon as we reached the elevator to the north building. The generous buffet featured many kinds of fish, both raw and fried. There were also variations on sea food and vegetable soups including many with seaweed. Along with yogurt and fruit we had plenty to eat.

The hotel is immense, containing several buildings connected by passageways and elevators. When we first arrived, it seemed difficult to manage but we are finally more comfortable navigating the maze.

We gathered in the lobby and then departed on our spacious bus for an hour’s ride to visit a pearl farming family. Our route took us south along Ago Bay passing many fishing villages. In every open plot of ground there was rice growing and, on many hillsides, there were arrays of solar panels.

Our destination was the village of Shima-shi, Mie and the Pearl Miki oyster farm run by our guide, Yoshiko. She is the last of the pearl farmers of her family. At one time the oyster farm had over 100 employees working during the pearl harvest.

Another one of the women, Toshiko, taught us how to harvest the pearls by shucking the oysters and then we discovered a beautiful gift from the sea. We also learned about growing the mollusks for two years, planting the nucleus, and then one year later the oysters are harvested. Cultured pearls from small farms like this are becoming rare as there are fewer young people willing to carry on this tradition.

At noon, we drove back north and then to the east to visit the local ama, or “sea women.” Their hut was on the side of the cliff. Inside the hut there was enough room for us to sit against the walls on benches surrounding a 3 x 4 foot brick fire pit. As soon as we sat down, the two ama began grilling fresh fish, scallops, clams, green peppers, mushrooms, and eggplant.

As Ken interpreted, we learned how the ama go out into the ocean to free dive for octopus, lobster, scallops, and other seafood delicacies. The meal was very good; there were many new things to try.

We came back to the hotel at 3:15 to begin the journal. Back down in the lobby at 6:00, we began our origami lesson. Ken instructed us in the fine art of paper folding. This simple art associated with the Japanese culture was very difficult for many of us with old fingers!

We enjoyed our final dinner in Toba at the hotel. Tomorrow is another travel day so we went back to the room to organize our belongings for the train trip to Kyoto.

Accommodations: Todaya Hotel -- Meals included: B, L, & D

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Overseas Adventure Travel:
South Korea & Japan: Temples, Shrines & Seaside Treasures
Pam Kim - South Korea
Ken Murakami - Japan


I was also going to ask you if you had read The Island of Sea Women! I heard the author speak at one of the Douglas County libraries a few years ago about it.

Susan Phillips   October 22, 2022 - 4:46am

I also read “the Island of Sea Women”, not realizing women free divers also do this in Japan…. How cool!

Nan Graber   October 21, 2022 - 4:34pm

I realize that your trip is the "other" Japan trip, not the one I took. So I am learning a lot! I read The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See that tells a lot about free diving. You might enjoy reading it. I love the seascape photo. I often try to do something like that in a photo and hopefully have a few moments to take in the scene before having to move along. I think you will get your fill of seafood! I may have to consider doing this trip, too! Enjoy.

Carol Larson   October 21, 2022 - 2:05pm
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Toshiko, Our Teacher

Toshiko, Our Teacher

Vic Harvesting Pearls

Vic Harvesting Pearls

Pearl Harvest Pontoon

Pearl Harvest Pontoon



Grilled Lunch

Grilled Lunch

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