Work, heat and humidity got you stressed out in Tokyo? Perhaps it’s time to jump off a bridge … with a rope attached of course! I’m talking about bungy jumping – an extreme blast of adrenaline and an activity that’s slowly gaining popularity in Japan.
Founded in 2007, Bungy Japan is the country’s only professional provider of bridge jumping thrills. There are three bridges that one can safely hurl themselves from, with two in Minakami-Cho on the Joetsu Line in Gunma, and one in Hitachiota City in Ibaraki. At 100 meters, the one in Ibaraki is the highest in Japan. I haven’t tried it yet, but I can give you the lowdown on the Gunma jumps.
Minakami-Cho is a fair ways outside of Tokyo, but the mountain scenery makes it well worth the trip, especially for the weekend. Neither getting there nor the bungy jumping come cheap (actually, bungy jumping is one of those things that you probably don’t want to be too cheap!) but here’s how to save yourself some money on your trip.
Cheapo Tip #1:
Take the local train from Tokyo to Minakami. It costs ¥3,020 each way and takes just over three hours, with good connections at Akabane and Takasaki.
Cheapo Tip #2:
Budget Shinkansen with the Kanto Area Pass! Time is money, but so is the shinkansen (bullet train). Normally, taking the Joetsu Shinkansen to Takasaki before switching to the local line, or to Jomo-Kogen before switching to a bus, brings the journey’s one-way cost to over 5,000 yen! There is a workaround for foreigners though. The Kanto Area Pass costs 8,000 yen and grants the holder unlimited use of all JR East trains (shinkansen and reserved seats included), within the set area, for three days. You can cut your travel time to Minakami down to just over 90 minutes and still have a rail pass that will get you around for two more days.
Made it to Minakami? The Suwakyo Bridge is most accessible bridge, being right in the middle of town about a kilometer south of Minakami Station. Japan’s first permanent bungy bridge, it rises 42m above the sparkling blue waters of the Tone River and offers amazing vistas of the Tanigawa Mountains.
A 20-minute ride to the west by car, taxi, or bus is the higher and far more scenic Sarugakyo Bridge. It’s located in a narrow valley just upstream of Lake Akadani. Sarugakyo’s setting is unspoiled by any buildings (save for a hotel almost completely hidden by trees on the downstream side of the bridge) and really is a leap into the wild. It’s also 20 meters higher than the Suwakyo at 62 meters, and more comfortable to jump off of. After taking the plunge here, the bungy rig will return you to a seated position for your return to terra firma.
A jump from the Suwakyo is 7,500 yen and a jump from the Sarugakyo is 10,000 yen. It means some shelling out either way, but there is a deal to be had: the combo jump. For 14,000 yen you can jump off of both the Suwakyo and the Sarugakyo. Two jumps in one day, a savings of 3,500 yen, excitement and fun that will leave you pumped for hours or days, and memories that will last a lifetime.
Also, 1,000 yen discounts are available in Ibaraki for those who have jumped at the Gunma bridges.
Check out the video for more money-saving tips and to get a feel for the jump: