Charles Odlin: The man who can help you take that leap

by Louise George Kittaka

Contributing Writer

Name: Charles Odlin
Age: 44
Nationality: New Zealand
Occupation: Bungy Japan owner
Likes: Getting outdoors and traveling
Dislikes: Negativity and complaining


1. As a bungee jumping company owner, can you explain why sometimes it’s “bungee” and other times “bungy”? The name comes from the bungee ropes that hold your surfboard on the roof of your car, because they cut the rubber out of them to make the original cords back in the day. A.J. Hackett (the Kiwi entrepreneur who founded the first commercial bungy site in 1988) and his friends spelled it with a “y” instead of “ee,” to differentiate it from the cords. But then when it took off in the U.S. in the early 1990s, they kept the original name.

2. Where and when was your first ever bungee jump? Yamagata Prefecture, April 1995.

3. How many bungee jumps have you done since then? I stopped counting after 100 but maybe close to 500. I’ve jumped at about 30 different bungee jump sites around the world.

4. What brought you to Japan in the first place? I studied Japanese at high school and university in New Zealand and felt like I needed to come over to Japan to really understand the language.

5. Have you and your company done a jump with any famous people? Dewi Fujin (entrepreneur and TV celebrity Dewi Sukarno), comedian Yabe-san from Nai Nai Saizu … quite a few of the AKB48 girls.

6. A lot of people must lose their nerve. What’s your technique for helping them pluck up their courage to take the plunge? The best technique is to try to keep people as relaxed as possible and provide positive reinforcement. It ultimately comes down to communication with a lot of people — understanding where the fear is coming from and helping them in some way to rationalize what they are doing.

7. Have you ever had to give someone a helpful push? No. Although people often ask. We don’t offer that service as the point of bungee jumping is for people to overcome their fear and jump. If someone can’t jump, we give them a free ticket to come back on another day. One person came back five times before he actually got off the edge.

8. Are you a risk taker in other areas of your life? Not really. One thing I think is very interesting about bungee jumping is that it has a high level of “perceived risk” but is in fact a very controlled environment.

9. What does your mum think of the fact that you encourage people to leap off high places? I think early on she worried a lot, as all mums do, but deep down she knew that I probably get a lot of my sense of adventure and love of travel from her.

10. What’s the best thing about your line of work? Not working in an office, helping people overcome their fears, and the buzz from the nervous energy you get from people before they jump. And then the ear-to-ear grins and laughter after they jump.

11. If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would you choose? Probably family I never got to meet … just to see and understand a little bit more about where I came from.

12. What do you always have in your fridge? Marmite — I don’t eat it that often but it just feels better having a jar in the fridge.

13. Can you tell us one surprising thing that most people don’t know about you? I have a “healthy” fear of heights!

14. What’s one thing you think that Japanese and Kiwis have in common? There are a lot of commonalities, but to me it is the differences that are most interesting: The attention to detail in Japan versus the “she’ll be right” attitude in N.Z., and the different way of thinking about personal space, group dynamics and work/life balance.

15. What do you miss most about New Zealand? Family and friends and Auckland’s west coast black sand beaches.

16. Where can you usually be found when you’re not working? Hanging out throwing the rugby ball around with my 8-year-old son.

17. Talking of rugby, who is your pick to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup? After recent results I am now hoping for an Ireland versus New Zealand final. I think the game day experience would be amazing!

18. What’s your “go to” song for karaoke? I have been known to try to channel Axl Rose (Guns N’ Roses) any chance I get.

19. If you weren’t running Bungy Japan, what do you think you’d be doing for a living? I’ve recently stepped away from day-to-day operations of Bungy Japan and focusing on helping tourism organizations to better optimize their operations, and hopefully revitalize local regions that are not benefiting from Japan’s current inbound tourism boom. I’m enjoying the new challenges.

20. What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were 21? One thing I have found really useful for finding direction and setting goals is scribbling down my thoughts in a notebook on a regular basis. It’s a habit that I wish I had started a lot earlier.