Few things scare me as much as needles. The very idea of a shot makes me woozy! My mom literally had to pull me out of the car screaming and tear away the seat belt I had in a death grip to get me into a doctors office when I was younger. Nurses pinned me down as they poked me with that horrible thing of my nightmares until they could find a vein. No joke.
The only thing that may compare is the idea of falling from a high, well… height! I’m all fine and dandy when my feet are on solid ground but put me on a rope or swaying bridge and I’m down for the count! How then, did I find myself in a metal cage underneath the longest suspension bridge in Japan, hobbled with a long rubber rope and about to jump off into oblivion?
I’m still a little fuzzy on the details. Let’s just put it down to a very convincing (and very crazy) friend!
However it happened, on the morning of April 19th, 2015 I found myself in this gut-wrenching position, and I was the one who’d made the reservations! Palms sweaty, heart-racing, I think my mind kind of just shut down.
Sarah (of Seira in Japan) and I are notorious for getting lost, but that morning (other than one unplanned u-turn) we somehow found our way to the Ryujin Great Suspension Bridge up in Hitachi-ota, Ibaraki. Meaning our time allotted for getting lost was spent watching person after person jump off a perfectly solid bridge, hurtle 100m (328ft) towards the icy river below, bounce around a bit and then be pulled back up (it’s the biggest bungee jump in Japan). Not cathartic in the least.
After checking in (surprisingly easy and enjoyable due to cool staff who speak a little English and are willing to dance to Taylor Swift with you), getting fitted for a harness (slightly awkward), taking the long walk of fate to the center of the bridge astronaut-style (it feels like you’re walking in slow motion and epic music should really be playing in the background!) and hitting my head on the tiny gate down into the staging (cage) area, the time had come.
I was the 3rd jumper in our group (it was a really cool group, we were the only first-timers too) because I’d lost a game of janken (rock, paper, scissors) with Sarah. That game is how every important decision is made here it seems, so it was only right it decided which of us got to die first!
None of the pictures make me look nervous but I can assure you, inside, I was frozen. When I’m scared I freeze, which I like better than actively freaking out, but people tend to push you farther when they don’t realize you’re already past your limit! So while repeatedly reviewing the short instructional speech in my head they told me to step to the edge.
I have never been so incredibly scared in my entire 24 years of existence! And then they told me to release the death grip I had on the sides of the bridge, with my feet hanging over the edge?!
But then I looked straight ahead, found a tree to stare desperately at, told the dudes to stop counting down (silently, I seemed to have lost my voice) and I prayed. I prayed hard. And surprisingly, a sense of calm came over me and I knew I could do this. That if I did this I would be a stronger person for it. That if I could do this (without anyone pushing me off) then what couldn’t I do in the future? Because when you face your deepest fear, willingly, and punch it in the face like this, you know deep inside that nothing, and I do mean nothing, can ever hold you back again!
So I let go, and when the countdown ended….
I don’t remember at all what I did during or immediately following the jump. I just remember the fear. And then I was floating and I released the death grip I apparently had on my harness, threw out my arms and enjoyed the flight. The bouncing was definitely the coolest part and when you’re finally right-side up again, when you’re being reeled back up, the view is just incredible! A completely unobstructed 360 view of the river and the valley. There’s nothing like it.
I still get nervous watching the video, and I still can’t believe I actually jumped off a bridge. I don’t know if I’d do it again, but I sure as heck know I’m glad I did it once!
Want to do it too? Bungy Japan is the company we jumped with and we really enjoyed them. They are pretty much the only bungee jump company in Japan and they have a few different locations, the one in Ibaraki being the biggest! Jump reservations can be made online or by phone.
Watch me jump and hear me scream!