Aokigahara Forest or Suicide Forest is located northwest of the mighty Mount Fuji. Spread across a huge area of about 35 sq. km, the forest of Aokigahara is so thick with foliage that it is also called the ‘Jukai’– which means ‘Sea of Trees’.
How to get to Suicide Forest?
Getting lost here is quite easy but coming out is nearly impossible because of the denseness of the forest. The ground of the forest is uneven, and riddled with small caves, moss-covered roots growing on top of the lava that once flowed over there. The phone reception is almost non-existential. And the light barely gets in the forest. However, many people go to the forest with no intention of coming out. Japan’s suicide rate is among the highest in the developed countries. This forest is also known as the world’s second-most common location to commit suicide. The most common location is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.
‘Think carefully about your children, your family,’ and ‘your life is a precious gift from your parents’.
“Think about your parents, siblings, and children once more. Do not be troubled alone.”
The signs end with a helpline telephone number, hoping the lost souls who seek to die would call for help.
Many people every year choose this forest as the last spot of their lives and come to this place to end their lives. Three decades ago a Japanese psychiatrist interviewed a handful of suicide survivors that why they chose this place to take their life?
Why people go to Suicide forest?
The key reason was that “they believed that they would be able to die successfully without being noticed.” Japan was ranked 26th globally among age-adjusted suicide rates in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Overall, there were 15.4 suicides per 100,000 populations, which breaks down to 9.2 for women and 21.7 for men. And it has been noticed by the experts that if a year is followed by a natural or economic disaster the suicide rate exceeds.
After a high number of suicides were reported in 2004 (a total of 108), officials stopped publicizing deaths for fear of glorifying the practice. Yamanashi prefecture, where the forest is located, began hiring people in 2009 to patrol the forest and approach anyone who might not look like the average tourist out on a hike. This has helped discourage suicide in some cases.
Japanese Belief about Suicide Forest
Japanese spiritualists believe that the forest is maybe haunted because once it was used to be a place where people once practiced ubasute – taking sick, elderly or other family members during famines to a remote area and leaving them to die in order to save food for other family members. In the Japanese famous belief, the people who die in a deep sense of hatred, anger, sadness, or a desire for revenge cannot leave this world and continue to wander. Their spirits are called ‘yurei’.
They say that their spirits still roam there and that the bodies of the people who commit suicide should not be left in the forest, so the forest workers remove the corps from the jungle and keep them in a special room in the local police station. This is done because people believe that it is bad luck for the suicide victims and spirits to cry and scream and also move their bodies themselves.
Unlike western horror movies, in which the spirits demand something specific to rest in peace, these spirits do not want anything in particular. They just want their cursed to be removed and their conflicts resolved. Death by hanging is the most common method of suicide among the sea of trees. The second is said to be poisoning, often by drug overdose. It is of no surprise to come across dead bodies or their possessions: discarded jackets, nooses hanging from trees, empty bottles of bleach, photographs, books, and letters.
In 1960, Japanese writer Seichō Matsumoto released the tragic novel Kuroi Jukai (translated as the Black Sea of forests), in which a beautiful torn hearted heroine commits suicide there. This novel had proved a seminal and sinister influence on the people of Japan. The Complete Manual of Suicide declared this forest “as the perfect place to die” The book has been found among the abandoned possessions of various Suicide Forest visitors.
Japan Feudal Era
Back in the feudal era, committing suicide was seen as the act of honor. Samurai warriors would rather commit suicide than surrendering to their enemy. It used to be a gesture of dignity. Even in world war two – the Special Attack Group to sacrifice for their country was seen as respectful and honored. But today people are choosing to end their lives just because they think they do not fit into society.
Being naturally beautiful, this place is visited by hikers and adventure lovers who come to visit Mount Fuji. The compasses, GPS systems, and mobile phones fail here because of the immense deposits of magnetic iron due to volcanic soil. Compasses either do not work or show the wrong direction and mobile phones do not receive signals. This is the reason why coming out of the forest is almost impossible.
These travelers use a plastic tape or ribbon and loop it around the trees to mark their way back. Also, this forest is a home of different kinds of beautiful trees, some of the trees are maybe 300 years old like the distinctive lava plateau and the enchanting Narusawa Ice Cave. This is no place of leisurely strolling. One visitor described the silence as “chasms of emptiness.” She added, “I cannot emphasize enough the absence of sound. My breath sounded like a roar.”
Things to keep in mind before visiting this place
- Do not travel alone.
- Must keep a plastic tape or ribbon as a marker with you
- Avoid visiting at night.
- Do not lose the path and always follow the signs
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