After arriving early at her station, Misuzu Hirai rode on a different subway car than her usual one on March 20, 1995. The change may have saved her life.
It was on that morning that members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult released sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subway system.
Hirai, now a Japanese record holder in competitive free diving, said she might have suffered the same fate as those who died or are still suffering from the after-effects of the attack.
"I am determined to live my life to the fullest so that I will not have any regrets," said the 38-year-old, who was unable to recount her experience until last year.
Her subway train on the Hibiya Line stopped at Tsukiji Station after 8 a.m. on that day. She heard someone on the platform shouting, "Three people are down."
A tense voice ordered passengers to evacuate. When she reached the ground-level exit, people were sitting down, covering their mouths with handkerchiefs.
Hirai said she smelled a strange odor on the platform. She walked for about 10 minutes to her workplace at that time, but she did not feel well during a morning meeting.
Aum Shinrikyo's attack killed 13 and sickened more than 6,000. The final rulings in trials for the cult's series of crimes are scheduled this month.
In 1996, Hirai's ovaries were removed because of a disease that might have been fatal if it had gone unnoticed a little longer.
"There is no guarantee that I will be alive the following year," she said she thought.
The sarin attack and the unrelated disease eventually led her to the sport of apnea, in which divers compete for depth reached or other benchmarks on a single breath.
Hirai, who could not swim, was traveling around Japan to watch wild dolphins in 2003. She happened to sit beside a man on Japan's national apnea squad on her flight back from Okinawa Prefecture.
She said she wanted to swim with dolphins, and the athelete told her that the shortest way to that goal is to become a free diver.
Hirai immersed herself in the sport and continued to improve.
In September, Hirai placed third in the World Championships, diving 82 meters deep and renewing her own Japan record.
She says her method involves taking a deep breath, diving in the water and letting her body automatically sink when she passes 50 meters.
After she emerges from the water, she takes a deep breath again.
"That is the moment when I feel alive," she said.
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