Skydiving Abroad: Tokyo, Japan 2015

One of the greatest perks to your Skydiving licence is being able to go to any dropzone worldwide. So far this year, I have visited 5 UK dropzones as well as Seville, Spain and Tokyo, Japan.

Going to another country exclusively for skydiving is fun in itself, you meet a lot of skydivers – and not all from the country you’re visiting. However, beyond taking a trip for skydiving, your licence can make for an awesome day trip and great way to see the country.

I was in Japan as part of a research trip working for my university in Kyoto and Osaka. Although I was mostly working, I got a fair bit of sightseeing in around the area, including visits to different shrines, districts, and a cat cafe!

JapanThe highlight, though, was definitely my final weekend in Japan. I emailed the Tokyo Skydiving Centre who helped me arrange travel to the dropzone and accommodation while I was there.

After a very long bus journey overnight (around 6hrs one way!), I arrived in Tokyo and had some fun looking around Shinjuku before heading up to Okegawa, the closest station to the Tokyo Skydiving Centre.

There are buses and the dropzone had kindly sent me a bus timetable, but since it was a 2hr wait and the walk was only an hour, I decided to walk. This was a mistake.

After a long walk in 38°c weather in pretty much 100% humidity, google maps decided to lead me down a footpath into a rice field that ended with a stretch of field with no paths and enough boggy mud to suck your shoes off. At that point though, I could already see canopies overhead so I abandoned google maps and wandered in that direction until I reached the dropzone.

Upon arrival, I was introduced to a load of other skydivers, including some Americans and a Brit who were living around Tokyo. I’d just missed the last load but the jumpers invited me out to dinner with them before we all crashed at the dropzone clubhouse. The clubhouse (although basic) had showers, wifi, a TV, and bedding, and I was allowed to stay free of charge.

The next morning was a rush as there was a race to manifest early enough for the first lifts. After arriving without the food I’d accidentally abandoned at home, I was introduced to a weird Japanese food called Natto. When Japanese skydivers start gathering around and giggling, I probably should have taken the hint but as you can see, I didn’t.

Robyn Natto

After the breakfast/hazing, we geared up to jump. I had most of my kit with me but was able to borrow a Silhouette 190, goggles, and a helmet from their gear store with no issue.

The day was boiling hot and my FS suit was so uncomfortable that getting into the plane was a relief. We climbed to altitude with the door open and the breeze and views were both amazing. They jump from 12,500ft at TSC, a little lower than I’m used to at Dunkeswell, but it meant we were almost perfectly on level with Mount Fuji’s peak.

Our first jump was a 3 way tube exit which rolled out the door and flew surprisingly well. After tumbling through the sky, we broke apart and I got to see the greatest views under canopy. As a bonus, I also managed to land in the landing area, rather than in the fast moving river right next to the runway!

TSC

This is a rough image of the landing and overshoot areas (red), a couple hazards in purple, and some areas in black that you weren’t allowed to land in. The area right before the landing area was full of families having picnics and landing there causes serious issues for the dropzone.

Later on in the day, I took part in a tracking dive, a 2 way FS drills jump, and a backfly rodeo. I only have photos of the last one but, as you can see, I was having quite a lot of fun!

TokyoThat night, instead of staying at the clubhouse, I was invited to stay in a spare room in central Tokyo by a skydiver and his wife. Not only was it very kind of them, but it underlines the great community of which we’re lucky enough to be a part.

The next day, he took me on a sightseeing tour of Tokyo, including visiting Akihabara (the nerd district), Tokyo Tower, and a maid cafe. The last one featured anime girls serving cute food, getting you to sing and chant, and (weirdly) a mini light show rave.

After a truly amazing weekend, I returned to Kyoto that night by bus but I already have plans to see some of the Japanese skydivers again and we’re still chatting via Facebook and email. For me, skydiving abroad makes for an awesome holiday or enhances a great trip, introducing you to new people worldwide and showing you the sites in a way only skydivers are lucky enough to experience.

Your skydiving licence is your passport to holidays like this. See our Getting Started guide to find out how you can earn yours, and register interest for a course.

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Skydiving abroad is great and it’s possible to have an amazing time, even as a new skydiver. However, there are things you should know to help that happen.

  • Your BPA licence is valid around the world but only insures you to jump at BPA-affiliated dropzones so additional insurance may be important or even mandatory in other places. It’s always best to contact the dropzone before traveling. In Japan, I had to pay extra for their third party and medical insurance.
  • You may also have to pay for dropzone membership and rates are likely to be different for jump tickets, kit hire, and packing. Again, get in touch with the dropzone to check on these before travelling.
  • Your A/B/C/D licence may sound the same as another skydiver’s, but there are different types which involve training in different aspects. A B licence under the FAI system, for example, involves water training. Often this isn’t a problem, but you should make the dropzone aware in case there are safety aspects they want to go over with you.
  • Other countries have different rules to the BPA system. For example, at BPA dropzones, you must have 200 jumps before you can skydive with a camera, a B licence to wear a fullface helmet, an AAD (almost always mandatory), an RSL before B licence, a packing certificate to pack for A licence skydivers, and you must be checked before skydiving, amongst many other things.
  • In other countries, the rules may not be as strict or they may just be different. It’s important to, firstly, familiarise yourselves with their rules. You may be given the opportunity to do things which, in the UK, wouldn’t be allowed. While a lot of people will have done these things safely, you should consider the risks you may be putting yourself in and take responsibility and precautions. We are strictly regulated in the UK but the same dangers exist abroad, don’t take risks just because you’re allowed to – you could get hurt.

 

If you need any help with traveling abroad, get in touch with a committee member or post on our Facebook page or group. We’re always happy to assist our members.

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