It takes around one hour for the Ama to fill a small fishing boat with arame and, as diving is such a tiring task, they only spend a maximum of 90 minutes at sea before they retire to their small huts by the ocean, called ‘ama-goya’, where they can sit by open fires to chat, cook, carry out washing, and crafts, before the second low tide of the day when they repeat the collection process.
When the arame has been collected, it is brought to shore and sun dried on the concrete pavement for a few days. When it is fully dried it is weighed and payment is made. It takes approximately 5kg of fresh seaweed to produce the finished weight of 1kg of dried arame.
There are self-imposed restrictions in place which dictated how much arame can be harvested from certain areas. This is agreed between the Ama and the local fishermen to help protect the sea’s natural ecosystem and safeguard the use of arame in Japanese culture.
Unfortunately, the future of the Ama already looks uncertain. If consumers eat less arame, then there is a lesser need for the Ama to collect it, and the younger generation are increasingly driven to work in towns and cities rather than harvesting arame as their mothers and grandmothers have done before them.