SUBMITTED BY IWAKUNI123
If you are planing on paragliding, DO MAKE A RESERVATION. They fill up a lot of times because they prefer to limit the tandem glides to about 10 per day. Try and go around 10am on Saturday or Sunday. The Japanese paragliders that take up the tandem passengers prefer the earlier start. Once you arrive, it is difficult to discern that it is an actual business (I am still not even sure that it is) versus just a group of friendly Japanese men and women who like to paraglide and will accept money to take you with them.
Anyways, at the landing zone, just approach one of them- one particular man is in charge (a Mr. Tahara- semi famous for paragliding west from this location across the whole island and landing in Hagi or somewhere) and any of them will be glad to assist you. There is also usually an American man out there with them. He goes solo, but to my knowledge cannot take up “passengers” just yet. He is on Iwakuni Classifieds and usually arranges a rental van/carpool out to the location each weekend. You can also probably use their Facebook page to locate him (link to page below).
Once at the landing zone and in communication with somebody that knows what is going on, make it known how many of you will be paragliding and eventually a van will arrive. You’ll all pile into the van while the pros load up the parachutes on top of the van. You’ll then drive from the landing zone up the mountain/large hill to the take-off spot (apprx 5 minute drive). Up there, they will give you a helmet (some have Go-Pro cameras attached to them) and strap you into a harness. The guide will already be strapped into the parachute and you’ll walk over and be attached to him/her. With some help from others, you’ll basically just walk right off of the hill and the parachute will catch the wind, taking you up with it. The guides will fly you around for 10 minutes or so (based on your fear factor) and will do spirals if you want (I told them that I did NOT want to and they were fine with that). You’ll then land right where you started. It was not my favorite experience in Japan, but the 3 other people I went with loved it. You pay upon landing. It is difficult to figure out who to pay, but if you just start offering people cash, eventually somebody will take it.
While this may be the most exciting thing ever and totally safe etc, here are my (PERSONAL) concerns:
1. There was no waiver or permission slip to be signed.
2. There was no safety class
3. The guy I was strapped to spoke extremely limited English.
4. Once you’re up, you’re up. You can have an awesome freakout/panic attack and you’ll still have to be up there 5-10 more minutes.
5. I just felt unsafe. My friends did not share this opinion. As a gauge of my fraidy-cat level, I have been tandem sky-diving twice from 14,000 feet before this experience.
6. I am a dependant, so I guess it doesn’t matter that I did this “sport.” However, I would imagine that the base, any safety personnel, and general ORM policies would discourage this activity for active-duty men/women. If you’re active duty and go to this, I’d suggest that you not to tell anyone important and don’t put it on social media.
I won’t go again, but my friends probably will. To each his own.
2907 Shutomachisoo, Iwakuni-shi, Yamaguchi, Japan
Use the address or phone number above to find the location. Once you get there, there are small signs with turtles on them that direct you to the landing zone and parking. You’ll drive through some rice fields on VERY narrow roads with no guard rails- bring a small vehicle if possible. It is very confusing to find the actual landing zone, but the turtle signs help. Or, just follow the parachutes.
Tandem: 6,000 Yen (8,000 if you want the video posted on YouTube and sent to you). Take exact cash. They don’t have a credit card machine & no cash box to make change for you.
If you want to learn to do it solo:
Paraglider Pilot Program 50,000 Yen
Hang glider Pilot Program 80,000 Yen
Motor Paraglider Pilot Program 80,000 Yen