Deep in Kumamoto Prefecture, in the land of tall mountains and deep valleys, lies the village of Itsuki.
The village hugs the mountains, and on its western border, the land drops steeply to the emerald waters of the Kawabe river. Spanning the river is a bridge of unlikely height, standing 66m above the water below. From here, if you’re feeling brave, you can bungee jump.
Itsuki is not the easiest place in the world to get to, but those willing to complete the journey will find a beautiful mountain village complete with onsen. Its unlikely setting, suspended so high above the river below, is the story of a failed dam project.
In 1966, the Kawabe River Dam was proposed to control flooding in central Kyushu and, after three decades of dispute between the government, environmental groups and residents of the town, the dam was given the go ahead by the Ministry for Finance in 1996.
Following continued protest, the project was eventually shelved in 2008, but not before the entire village of Itsuki was re-located from the lower banks of the river to its current position, and colossal bridges built across the river valley.
With the cancellation of the dam project, several of these bridges were made redundant. One of these, Kobae Bridge, caught the eyes of the guys at Bungy Japan and, after meticulously surveying the bridge, alongside 100 potential sites throughout the country, the bridge was chosen as one of Bungy Japan’s bungee sites.
‘If it goes wrong, at least I’ll have died somewhere beautiful’
I’m not one for talking at great length about bridges, but it’s easy to see why. The valley it spans is steep, making it safe to jump from, and the river beneath runs clear and blue. The bridge is framed by one of those picture-perfect landscapes that makes you think, ‘if it goes wrong, at least I’ll have died somewhere beautiful’.
The Bungy Japan Itsuki Office
The chances of it going wrong, however, are about as close to zero as you can get in a world that’s happy to elect Trump. Bungy Japan’s staff are meticulous in their practice and will guide you through the whole process. Their office contains an advanced check-in/weighing system that allows them to set up the bungee cord to your exact weight.
Safety checks done and all ready to go.
Unless you’re missing some crucial part of your brain, bungee jumping will never be completely nerve free. However, Bungy Japan’s English-speaking staff will put your mind at ease no matter the nerves. Once you take that leap, any residual fear will turn into elation as the adrenaline kicks in. Put simply by two Japanese guys who jumped before me, “fear, fear, fear, enjoy, enjoy, very enjoy, very enjoy, VERY VERY ENJOY!”
“Very enjoy, very enjoy, VERY VERY ENJOY!”
Jumping is an incredible experience. The adrenaline kick will have you buzzing for hours, and is perfectly complimented by a visit to one of Kumamoto Prefecture’s onsen towns.
“Winch me up, Scotty”
Bungy Japan returns to Itsuki for a special New Year’s event before its re-opening events in March 2017! If you’d like to have a go, stay tuned for details of the events!
Access – By Car
Itsuki is a two and a half hour drive from Fukuoka down the Kyushu Expressway. The Bungy Japan Office can be found just off the main road going through Itsuki, here. Kobae Bridge is a couple of minutes drive from the office.
By train take the shinkansen to Shin-yatsushiro and then change to the trans-Kyushu limited express train that runs from Beppu to Hitoyoshi. From here, you’ll need to get a bus to Itsuki.
Report written by Oscar Boyd. Photos by Oscar Boyd and Bungy Japan. Film by Oscar Boyd & Laurie Griffiths. Music by Wildfire