Down to Earth Birthday


Yae Aihara sails through the blue yonder Aug. 21, on a tandem jump with a skydiving instructor. Aihara took the plunge to celebrate her 85th birthday, after having performed the same feat five years earlier. (Photo courtesy Yae Aihara)



Remember your sweet sixteen? What about your 13th birthday? How about getting blacked out drunk on your 21st? Everyone undergoes rites-of passage in their prime, but many let age restrict them from the ceremonies of the young.

Yae Aihara observed her 85th birthday on Aug. 18. In celebration of this, she went skydiving with her granddaughter, Riki Aihara, three days later. This wasn’t her fi rst, but her second session in the last five years.

She shared a complimentary DVD of her experience with the Rafu at a friend’s home in Montebello. Strapped from head to foot in jumping gear, she smiled enthusiastically as the camera panned across her face. As she jumped, the wind ruffl ed the features across her face until her instructor pulled the cord.

Aihara and her granddaughter, Riki who also jumped. (Photo courtesy Yae Aihara)

Yae was born in Tacoma, Washington, and like others of her generation living on the west coast, a bout of historical misfortune struck her family and they were forced to relocate by the government. She was interned at both Crystal City, Texas, and Minidoka, Idaho, but thankfully, she had already received her high school diploma at the age of 16 before the internment.

After the war, she started anew, moving to Montebello, and has lived there ever since. She worked as a distributor for the Naris Cosmetics Company until retiring at the age of 72.
She saw in the news that President George H.W. Bush went skydiving at the age of 80.

“When he jumped on his eightieth birthday,” she said. “I thought that’s what I’m going to do when I turn eighty.”

When the time came for her to jump, she recruited the company of her older grandson, Casey Oshika and his friends to accompany her on this daring feat.

“I wasn’t conscious of everything down below,” she said of her initial experience. “But that thirty seconds went by so fast…When I put my hand on the ripcord—when that happens—it’s so quiet. It’s such a thrill.”

Fast forward to five years into the present. President Bush skydived for a second time and her friends urged to follow suit. The combination of peer pressure and inspiration from the highest office eventually got the best of her.

Yae Aihara

Aihara and her instructor from Skydive Elsinore leap from a plane in their jump over Lake Elsinore. (Photo courtesy Yae Aihara)

“Four of my friends saw [it]…and they more or less challenged me to do it on my 85th,” she said.

This time, one of her other eleven grandchildren accompanied her instead. Riki Aihara, a current undergrad student majoring in Business and Environmental Studies at San Diego State University, stepped up to the challenge.

“I wanted to jump with her the first time but I wasn’t old enough, so I’m really happy she decided to go again because now I can say my first time skydiving was with my grandma when she turned 85,” she explained.

“When my family told me my grandma was skydiving again I jumped right on it,” Riki added. “I would never pass up a chance to go skydiving, especially with my grandma for her 85th birthday. She’s the best, it was all her idea too, so it makes her seem like Wonder Woman!”

“I guess if Bush jumps on his 90th Birthday, then I guess I’ll have to too,” Yae said laughing, when asked about any future plans. She later insisted that the Rafu didn’t make a big deal about her achievement. We promised to celebrate along with her, as much as possible.


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