Page 1

in W 8* 99 $4

Winter 2010

s se h ui r t cr O y wo P& a A olid h

Get Up & Go

Get Up & Go Winter 2010 $5.95

• Orange NSW • Whitsundays Qld • York town WA • Wellington NZ • Cooking school

in Sydney

Canada’s Arctic superstars Hua Hin Thai royal resort town

Stylish European cruising Vietnam’s cool hill town Mikimoto’s Japan

Kumano Hongu Taishu

photography: mikimoto pearl museum

The world according to Mikimoto A shrine to this most desirous jewel, the pearl, can be found on a tiny island off Japan. Roderick Eime reports. Kokichi Mikimoto

28 Get Up & Go


Am quiatis dolorrum amendisDebitae pratibus.


THE PEARL GLOBE Constructed with 12,541 perfect pearls, which form the world’s seas and oceans, the continents are 22 carat gold. There are hundreds of diamonds and rubies representing the equator and polar regions. It is finished in platinum and stands on a bronze arm depicting signs of the zodiac. The base is inlaid with gold and embossed with Japanese flowers.


earls have been with us, coveted, lusted after, ogled over, since ancient times. The Parthians and Persians used pearls and their kaleidoscope shells for jewellery, adornment and currency perhaps as far back as 200BC. These treasures then travelled the world along the Silk Route to China and Japan as well as Europe, their allure enhanced by myth and legend. Believed by some to be a drop of the moon and a symbol for youth and immortality, the pearl quickly became enshrined in holy texts and folklore. Fast forward to the early 20th century and to the development of the modern cultured pearl. While the revered Kokichi Mikimoto is considered the father of modern commercial pearling, the successful technique of culturing pearls is the result of numerous men,

including the English-born Australian, William Saville-Kent. Today, the pearl museum on Mikimoto Pearl Island in Japan’s maritime Mie Prefecture is the centre of the pearl universe. Visitors to this complex are treated to vast exhibits including culturing demonstrations and displays of exquisite pearl jewellery; crowns, watches, necklaces and even a 12,760 pearlencrusted, five storey pagoda. Mikimoto-san, before his death in 1954 at the age of 96, used to keep a pearl globe in his office. “I go around the world everyday!’’ he would love to say to entranced visitors as they gazed on the world from a new perspective. A globe on display at the museum was created after his death as a tribute to the great man and his worldly vision. Despite the Japanese pearl industry being dominated by men, the crucial part played by women divers, or ‘ama’, is celebrated every day at the museum with a re-enactment of early diving techniques. For centuries the traditional pearl harvest was performed by hundreds of skilled women who would dive to the sea floor on a single breath and collect the pearlbearing oysters (Pinctada maxima). Today the number of these women still working this ancient method is dwindling but it is still possible to meet them and share a meal at some of the tiny villages around Mie and other points in Japan where they still dive for shellfish and crustaceans. Viewed by many Japanese as a ‘living treasure’ the amasan are embedded in Japanese folklore and legend with numerous fables featuring ama as heroic central figures. Probably the most famous is Yukio Mishima’s romantic novel, The Sound of Waves, which has

been filmed at least five times since it was originally published in 1956. The maritime tradition permeates every part of Toba City with a wealth of aquatic attractions including an aquarium, the excellent Sea Folk Museum and sightseeing cruises, but don’t leave without your pearl. •


Toba City is located in the Ise-Shima region of Mie Prefecture, south of Nagoya and about 90 minutes by express train service. Attractions: Toba Sea Folk Museum and Ama Culture Museum, Mikimoto Pearl Island, Toba Aquarium, Ise Jingu holy site, Ama Hut Experience, visit: www. Getting there: Japan Airlines has daily direct flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport with same day connections to Nagoya and Osaka. Accommodation: Toba Hotel International, visit: www. For more information, visit: www. or tel: 1300 525 287. The writer was a guest of the Japan National Tourism Organization

Get Up & Go 29

The World According to Mikimoto  

Feature article from Get Up & Go Winter 2010

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you