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Mainland dive companies attracted to local waters

Date Posted: 2007-07-05

The emerald waters surrounding Okinawa lure thousands of divers each year, and now are attracting mainland companies as well.

Mainland dive shops are moving to Okinawa because of its crystal clear waters that attract tourists, and they want a piece of the action. The Foundation for Okinawa Marine Leisure Safety says Okinawa Prefecture now has 435 dive shops, an increase of 12% from only a year ago, when there were 383.

Ishigaki Islands are the mecca for divers, drawing thousands of serious divers each year. Dive shops have increased in Ishigaki by more than 28% over the past year, with officials describing most shop owners and workers as mainland tourists or divers “who came, fell in love with Ishigaki, and stayed.”

Local officials say the dive shops are used predominantly by non-Okinawans. “Why? What a waste with such beautiful oceans around them”, asked one mainland visitor. “Okinawans should be going to the ocean every day.” Officials are responding with encouragement to fellow Okinawans to “give diving a try. Enjoy your ocean more.”

Okinawans have traditionally viewed and used the ocean for everyday life, going to the waters to harvest shells, fish or seaweed. Officials say the oceans haven’t been seen as a leisure pursuit, but instead, a basic part of life.

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