I decided to do something I had never done before to celebrate my birthday today... so I did a tandem skydive for the price of ¥32,000. I drove up to Ishikawa-ken yesterday afternoon and stayed in a luxurious Ryokan called Notonosho, which has a beautiful view of Wajima Bay. I love being near the ocean; being in the presence of something so immense and powerful makes me feel small and insignificant in the greater scheme of things and I find it oddly comforting.
I took advantage of the hot springs before dinner and lying in the scalding water, I realised how much I needed this, being totally and utterly alone; to just be me and for the first time in a long time, I actually felt relaxed. It was also nice to be in traditional Japanese surroundings; I mean I can't remember the last time I wore a yukata and slept on the floor.
I slept better than I have in months and the next day I drove over to the airfield. There I was met by my tandem instructor, the pilot and another instructor. They spent about ten minutes or so showing me the parachute equipment we were going to use, providing me with information on free falling itself and what to expect, plus emergency procedures, and finally landing information.
Then we got geared up in our flight suits, the other instructor was going to jump with us to take video footage. I told him firmly that that was not necessary but he decided to jump anyway. We entered the small aircraft and took off. Funnily enough, I did not feel nervous. I just felt the adrenaline rush that comes just before a kill and I was grateful that this was not due for once to the fact that I was about to ram three feet of steel through someone's body.
Once we were at 15,000 feet, the second instructor fastened me securely to the tandem instructor before opening the door. The first thing that struck me was the noise. The sound of the wind was incredible, I just about heard my instructor ask me if I was ready before he started walking us to the door. The second thing that I became aware of was the intense cold, it was bitter and it fogged up my goggles for a few moments. I could just about see the second instructor give us the thumbs up which meant we were over the drop zone and suddenly we were falling.
Oh, it was incredible. I am never going to be able to do the experience justice with mere words. Watching the Earth come hurtling towards you and yet, all the while feeling like you are flying was amazing. It felt like it went on forever but afterwards, Shinji (my tandem instructor) told me it was only about a minute but that we were travelling at 120 mph. He then opened the canopy at about 5,000 feet and our descent was slowed dramatically, he handed over the controls of our parachute to me and I guided us in for our landing with guidance from him. About five minutes later, we were back on the ground. The feeling of elation and accomplishment was incredible and as I helped Shinji roll up the parachute after he had unhooked me from himself, he told me that I looked good when I smiled and he is probably right.
Now I am back in Tokyo, Ken and Omi have made me a cake and I am touched that they would go to so much trouble; plus Ken said he would come out with me for a beer and some food, I'm hoping that Yohji and Omi will come too...