As a college graduation present to myself, I accompanied my friend and roommate Jared on a trip to Japan. Our trip was atypical in many ways because we stayed with American Christian missionaries that were living in Tokyo. Our hosts were wonderful and treated us like family. We had a lot of fun laughing and playing with their two twin sons, age 7. After having spent about 5 days roaming around Tokyo – getting lost in the 7-story video arcades of Akihabara, strolling through the packed alleyways of Harajuku and reflecting on the grounds of the emperor’s palace – we packed up for a road-trip north into Yamagata and Tohoku.
We drove hours to get to our destination – and must have paid a small fortune in tolls just to get there. With a nearly ubiquitous rail system, vehicular traffic on the country’s major arteries is discouraged with punitive tolls. This made our road trip particularly unique. In Yamagata, we met up with a particularly brash and adventurous missionary, who convinced us to go bungee jumping off a bridge high in the Japanese Alps. In mid-May, the snow melt had nearly finished, so the mountain streams were rushing and lush with greenery.
We arrived at the site of our adventure: a suspended pedestrian bridge spanning a beautiful alpine stream. A platform jutted out, elevated about 150 feet above the eddying water below. A cool breeze scented with fresh snow melt and pine welcomed us to the site where we would soon bungee jump.
Although I had bungee-jumped once before (a tame and lame 60-foot plunge while clinging to a pad in Gatlinburg, TN), this one was pretty intimidating. We sat and nervously watched as a few people went ahead of our group. One by one, they would walk to the midpoint of the footbridge, be coached past their rational fears, leap, plunge, bounce a bit and then be lowered down to the river where a raft would retrieve them. Soon it would be our turn, but not before we signed the paperwork.
What follows is one of the funniest things that I’ve ever experienced in a lifetime of travel. Here is the Engrish “release” we all signed before jumping off a bridge. Pro tip: it’s funniest if you force yourself to read it out loud, without reading ahead visually. Go ahead, give it a try! This one sheet of paper has provided more than a decade of laughs at parties, and is a great travel story ice-breaker.
Okay now let’s just acknowledge that this blog post is really a way to get that form out into the world. And the jump? Awesome. Smooth. Crisp. I went down in a swan-dive, head-first, gently recoiling and swaying in the fresh alpine air. Definitely find the courage to jump…somewhere. And if you want a good laugh, jump in Japan.