Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dive In

After we spent a weekend in Hachijojima last March, I wrote about how Yuki and I had a chance to try scuba diving and really enjoyed ourselves. We sat on the idea of getting proper diving certification for a while but never really did anything about it until Yuki happened to find a place with good reviews that was offering licensing courses for a fairly inexpensive price (more on that in a minute…). Figuring that it would be a fun option to have when we travel, we decided to check it out.


The advertised price at the place was $150, but there were A LOT of strings attached. They really pushed people to buy their own gear (wetsuit, mask, snorkel, etc.), the idea being that owning your own gear would encourage you to stick with the hobby. Honestly, I think it was largely them taking advantage of a common tendency for Japanese people to have a hard time saying no when put on the spot (I had no such issues). If, however, you don’t shell out the $500+ for one of their gear packages, you’d have to pay something like $70 per dive session to rent it (x3 session = +$210). There was also a number of little administrative costs and knick-knicks that they make you buy which add up to another $70-80 or so. All-in-all, the total bill comes out to around $400, which is pretty much what it would cost at most other places in Tokyo anyway, so we figured we’d give it a shot. I wasn’t really thrilled about the way they kept trying to get us to buy things or sign up for stuff (if we’d said “yes” to all the add-ons, we probably would have blown through another $200-300), but they were excellent teachers and took good care of us throughout the process, so if you’ve got the will power to say no to all the selling, it’s not a bad shop to go with.

There are three components to getting your diving license:
(1) A paper test on basic diving technique and safety
(2) Diving practice session in a pool
(3) Diving practice session in open water

The test is easy: if you just read the little book they give you, there’s nothing difficult on it. I used a Japanese book and took the test itself in Japanese and still got something like 95%. To be honest, you could probably pass if you just read the first half of the book and use a little common sense during the test. The pool section is mostly focused on learning how to prepare your equipment and actually trying out the techniques you read about in the book. It’s pretty dry, but it makes everything easier to understand.

The open water diving is about learning to apply the basic techniques in a real life situation and involves four dives split over two days, with an option to split it over two weekends or stay overnight and do it all in one. We opted to stay over and make a weekend out if it.

hdr - morning train to diving

Most diving tours I’ve read about go out early in the morning (though I don’t really know why), and this was no exception. We were on train before 6am in order to make it to the dive shop by 7am, with an hour and a half car ride from their to the diving spot.


Being early November, we were worried that it was going to be pretty cold, but we lucked out and had great weather. After our first two dives Saturday morning, we spent the afternoon lounging around in an onsen up in the mountains, perfect after a morning in the cold Pacific waters. We bummed around in our hotel, a cozy little place literally overlooking the coast, before heading out for dinner.


The coastal area is full of windy roads that snake through the mountains, giving us a great view of the sunset. For dinner, we ate sashimi at a little family run place way up in the mountains. Top class fish at a price you would never see in Tokyo, it was a joy to eat.


The weather wasn’t quite as good the second day, but still decent enough. Two more dives and that was it: licensed scuba divers! Now we can go diving anywhere in the world, something we’ll be taking advantage of on our upcoming trip in a couple of weeks. Can’t wait!


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