Mikimoto Pearl Island ミキモト真珠島
The birthplace of modern pearl cultivation where women still dive for pearls
Tourists visiting the Toba Aquarium should set aside time for a visit to Mikimoto Pearl Island. The cultured pearl industry got its start right here, and you'll see stunning examples of both the glowing little orbs and the jewelry made with them.
You can view elaborate pearl ornamentation in the museum
Women practice traditional pearl diving without scuba gear throughout the day
How to Get There
Head to the island by JR train then on foot.
If you're coming from Nagoya Station, the Kintetsu Limited Express takes 95 minutes, and the JR Rapid Express Mie takes 100 minutes to get you to nearby Toba Station on the Sangu Line. From Osaka-Namba or Kyoto stations, Kintetsu will bring you here in a little over two hours. Take a brief walk from Toba Station down to the bridge connecting the shore with the island.
Pearls of wisdom
In 1892, local pearl farmer and merchant Kokichi Mikimoto made a groundbreaking invention when he discovered a way to culture perfectly round pearls.
This island is where Mikimoto set up shop to grow what would become a fantastically successful business thanks to his proprietary pearl cultivation techniques. The company's monopoly on that knowledge eventually disappeared, but pearls are still very much a part of the local community.
One reason the trip here is worth the visit is to see a demonstration by the pearl divers. They are called ama, meaning "sea women."
They once used traditional implements to harvest the precious pearls from the oysters on the bottom of the bay, but without the use of modern-day scuba gear. Although they no longer gather pearls this way, you can still see for yourself how they performed this physically demanding work.
Museum and gift shop
Information in the island's museum is provided in English. There are two main sections, one with pearl jewelry, and the other with works of art fashioned from pearl.
You'll find impressively intricate designs in both. And of course, pearl jewelry is available for purchase should you decide to take home an elegant souvenir.