japonisme: diving without analogy

16 October 2007

diving without analogy

O'er the wide, wide sea, Towards its many dis- tant isles, Rowing I set forth. This, to all the world pro- claim, O ye boats of fisher-folk!
The place is the south end of the Izu Pen- insula, southwest of the Tokyo area.

The women are Ama--diving girls who are trained to dive into shallow water and reef areas and retrieve shellfish and other marine life used in gour- met seafood meals. It was a hard and dangerous occupation, and the girls used no special

equipment. Most of them worked for a labor boss, who took a cut of their wages. The occupation gradually van- ished after the war--these were among the last of the tribe.

the prints clearly make it seem more romantic. called both divers of abalone and pearls, the women are pictured as long-haired and red-skirted, often joyous in their explo- rations, with their families around them. they are, further, of great interest to royal parties and boats of leering fishermen as well.

utamaro featured them the most often -- not really surprisingly

since he spent the rest of his time exploring the women of the pleasure district, both on paper and personally. it was the death of him, in a roundabout way.

Hokusai tells us that the longing for the spiritual security of home is stronger than any sensual temptation - including that of beautiful girls. The three girls on the top of the rock are a tribute to Kitagawa Utamaro's famous woodblock from 1798 with "the same three girls". Hokusai made his woodblock about 50 years later. 2

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Blogger Princess Haiku said...

Do you know if the women divers were well paid for efforts? It seems as though they have an independence unusual for their time.

I find images of women in the sea, mermaids, dreams, moon etc. to be appealing. Perhaps the desire to return to sea see source self?

A thought provoking post and original.

18 October, 2007 09:04  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

Did you know that the New York Botanical Garden is presenting the most fabulous flower festival in its history? It will feature rare displays of chrysanthemums never seen before outside of Japan and other aspects of Japanese culture. They have a website if you are interested. A blog friend of mine; Digital Flower Photos is going and will take photos. He has a lovely horticultural blog.

BTW The Kiku festival runs Oct 20 and continues for about a month.

18 October, 2007 09:18  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

hey princess--

given that they had to give part of their salaries to their overseer, it doesn't sound all that lucrative. i think it was part of that culture for a long long time.

i too just felt a swoon dealing with these images; i suddenly wanted them all over my walls. yes, so appealing. so non-linear.

and thanks for the inspiration!! :^)

18 October, 2007 20:45  
Anonymous gusthed said...

A very interesting tale of the artists´attempt to picture the amas as mermaids. The somewhat more modern photo artist Iwase continued their work in his way with hundreds of photos taken during the arly part of 2oth century.

26 March, 2011 01:31  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you -- very interesting. easy to google too (iwase ama). in fact, after looking at them, i would guess that the one photo in this post is by iwase, don't you think?

26 March, 2011 07:30  

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