By NOBORU INOUE/ Staff Writer
August 11, 2022 at 08:00 JST
NAGOYA--One recent summer day, two "mermaids" were seen swimming playfully in a pool in the city's Meito Ward.
Their "tail fins" featured pink, light blue and other vibrant colors.
But a closer look saw that they were Chinatsu Matsunaga and Shoko Goto in mermaid costumes. The two have always loved mermaids since their childhood and wanted to swim gracefully like the fictional creatures.
The pair became so serious about their dream that they founded a "training school" here, offering aspirants a chance to swim like mermaids with the help of a tail fin.
Striving to promote the joy of "mermaid swimming," the pair has helped more than 100 people to become mermaids.
At the pool in Meito Ward in mid-June, the pair swam freely as they moved their fins with dexterity and rolled over in the water, looking as if they came right out of the world of animation.
Matsunaga and Goto founded the Mermaid Academy Japan in 2018 to promote mermaid swimming in the country, hosting trial sessions in pools in the city's Meito and Minami wards.
‘IF NOT ME, THEN WHO?’
Mermaid swimming is believed to have originated on Boracay Island in the Philippines.
It is believed that there are at least several thousand enthusiasts in the United States, Europe, China, South Africa and elsewhere around the world.
In addition to wearing a tail fin to swim in the shallow waters, mermaid swimmers can reach a depth of 5 meters or more if they have diving skills and carry air tanks on their back.
Both Matsunaga and Goto learned about mermaid swimming from watching TV. Each was inspired and thought she was destined to pursue the activity.
They immediately went through a training program and were qualified as mermaid swimming instructors.
CONDITION OF ADMITTANCE
At the Mermaid Academy Japan, which is attended by students from across the country, Matsunaga and Goto have taught mermaid wannabes ranging in age from 5 to their 50s.
The only condition of admittance is that they have a fascination for mermaids.
While the fabled creature may be closely associated with women, several men have also graduated from the academy.
The academy offers several programs ranging from a trial lesson to a licensing course, which are taught by the pair.
Many people find it perplexing to swim using a special fin. But the instructors pay attention to the safety of students, making sure they start swimming in a shallow area and taking other precautions.
Most students become accustomed to swimming with the fin in a short time, and the instructors also welcome those who are not good at swimming.
Goto said she couldn't swim at all until she started mermaid swimming.
But now she travels abroad to go for a swim.
"The sea has become my habitat," she said.
RESIDENT OF ANOTHER WORLD
"When I swim in the sea, I can feel like being born into a new self, different from my old one," Matsunaga said.
Goto added: "I can feel like being a resident of another world underwater."
As mermaids, Matsunaga calls herself Chelsea while Goto refers to herself as Shellina.
They say the biggest charm of mermaid swimming is that they can immerse themselves in an extraordinary world, seeing the world differently and feeling different about themselves.
LOCALLY BASED MERMAIDS
They also receive requests to appear on shows as mermaids.
"I really appreciate how local people support us. We are 'locally based mermaids' who mainly operate in Aichi (Prefecture)," Matsunaga said with a smile.
Both love Disney's animated film "The Little Mermaid."
When they see many "mermaids" wearing a tiara, a necklace and other accessories come together, it feels like entering a dreamlike world of Disney animation, they said.
Matsunaga and Goto said they want to increase the number of "mermaids" as much as possible around the world and share the sensation of being immersed in the dream world.
For detailed information, visit the official website at (https://mermaidacademyjapan.wixsite.com/mermaidacademyjapan). Its official Instagram account is available at (https://www.instagram.com/mermaid_academy_japan/?hl=ja).
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