Photographer Iwase Yoshiyuki's Ama Divers, c. 1950s
Living out a tradition that dates back two thousand years, the Ama divers of coastal Japan are the closest thing you'll ever find to a real life mermaid. The women are experienced deep sea divers, and equipped with little more than a mask and some flippers, they hunt for oysters and abalone in the Pacific Ocean. In the 1950s, photographer Iwase Yoshiyuki went to the fishing village where he had grown up, and documented the extraordinary lives of these incredible women. The custom allowed these women to make more money in a single season than many of the men in the same village. Although the tradition still exists today, it is in much smaller numbers and the community is less dependent on these sea sirens. In 2011, photographer Nina Poppe followed up on the Ama, or women of the sea, to find out what was left of the mer-people.