There is a forest in Japan that is known as the Aokigahara Forest, the Japanese Suicide Forest or the japanese Death Forest. It’s located at the foot of Mt. Fuji. This Japanese death forest is an eerie place that is thick with trees, so think in fact that it is also referred to as the Sea of Trees. It is a place where an average of 100 people per year ends their life.
According to Kristy Puchko who wrote the article, 14 Eerie Things About Japan’s Suicide Forest, for mentalfloss.com:
1. The Suicide Forest is one of the most popular suicide destinations in the world. It is next to impossible to get a truly accurate count of the number of suicides that occur there as the forest is lush and thick and many corpses are not discovered for years.
2. Japan has a long tradition of suicide. There is a different perception of suicide in Japan as there is not a religious restriction on suicide as there is in the west. According to Larissa MacFarquhar’s article entitled, Last Call: A Buddhist Monk Confronts Japan’s Suicide Culture, for the newyorker.com “suicide can absolve guilt and cancel the debt, can restore honour and prove loyalty.” As Maurice Pinquet wrote in his study, Voluntary Death in Japan, “In Japan, you can hide in death, disappear into it entirely and mend the fault as you go.”
3. With a long tradition of suicide, it is no surprise that Japan has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. “Japan’s suicide rate is nearly twice that of the United States. From 1998 to 2011, there were more than thirty thousand suicides each year – one nearly every fifteen minutes.” (2013, L. MacFarquhar)
4. The Japanese Government wants to reduce the number of suicides and have taken actions such as setting up security cameras at the entrance of the Suicide Forest, and the posting of positive signs. The positive signs say “Think carefully about your children, your family.” and “Your life is a precious gift from your parents.” (2016, K. Puchko)
Larissa MacFarquhar has written about the Buddhist monk, Ittetsu Nemoto, who has spent much of his time helping those that are suicidal. Nemoto will gather suicidal people and ask them to write down what they would want to accomplish or see if they had been a cancer diagnosis with only three months left to live. Then he asks them to write down the same type of list if they had only one month to live, then a week, then ten minutes. This exercise helped one man who had been speaking to Nemoto for years about his desire to die. This man’s page was empty at the end of the exercise because he had never considered what he would like to do with his life, as he had been focused on his desire to die. With the realization that he had never really lived, he decided that he did not want to die. The man went back to work, began to socialize, and enjoy human contact and earned a promotion.
5. The Japanese Death Forest is naturally eerie. The trees are tightly packed together, their roots create an uneven terrain, and the wind cannot penetrate the trees. That means that no leaves will rustle, no birds are chirping, there is little to no wildlife, and therefore it is silent. Your own breath will sound like a roar. It is hard to imagine a silent forest, and just the thought of it is eerie to me.
6. The most popular method of suicide in the Sea of Trees is hanging. While the second method is poisoning by drug overdose.
7.A novel called, Kuroi Jukai, written by Seicho Matsumoto and published in 1960 contained a character that becomes heartbroken and enters the Sea of Trees to end her life. The Complete Suicide Manual is a book that is occasionally found near corpses when they are discovered. Remember though that Japan has a long tradition and history of suicide, but having two books that point you toward the Sea of Trees as a suicide destination may just increase that tradition.
8. The Japanese Suicide Forest is a character in a grim folk story. It is said that ubasute, a brutal form of euthanasia, has occurred in the Sea of Trees during times of famine. Ubasute translates to “abandoning the old woman.” The story goes that during a famine family members would take an elderly relative, usually a female, and abandon them on a mountain, or a deep, dark forest where helpless, the old lady would die of dehydration and starvation. This would leave the family with one less mouth to feed. Or in other words, sacrifice the old to save the young.
9. This Japanese Suicide Forest may be haunted. It is said that the forest is haunted by those that died from ubasute, as well as those that chose to go there to commit suicide. The folk stories about the forest claim that the spirits are vengeful and like to lore sad people off the paths and towards suicide.
There are 70 to 100 deaths per year in the Suicide Forest In Japan
10. Imagine a forest that needs to be searched each and every year, not for wildflowers, or to count the bird population, but to discover and remove human remains. The Japanese Government no longer releases the number of corpses found but in the early 2000’s between 70 and 100 corpses were found per year. The searches have been conducted since 1970.
11. There are people that work in the Sea of Trees as suicide prevention patrollers. If they see someone enter the forest with a tent they will make sure to visit that person, as the tent suggests the person has doubt about their possible suicide. I personally cannot imagine a creepier place to camp and would doubt that someone who was not considering suicide would camp in the Sea of Trees. I am glad to know that the prevention patrol exists and hope that they save many lives.
12. The forest is one made for Hansel and Gretel. Okay, not really. The Sea of Trees is so thick that breadcrumbs would not help you find your way out at all. People that search the forest, or go there to commit suicide will use plastic tape (think crime scene tape) to mark their way through the trees. If the tape is not used and wound around the trees it is easy to lose one’s bearings after leaving a pathway and become fatally lost.
13. Another eerie fact about the forest is that the soil has a high level of magnetic iron that wreaks havoc on cell phones, GPS systems, and compasses. If you forget your tape, or you do not use it, you are in for a scary and possibly permanent situation if you venture off the pathways. Many say this havoc is the result of demons, and spirits in the forest.
14. Venturing off the pathways can lead to disturbing and ghastly discoveries. From uncovering abandoned personal effects in the undergrowth to finding bones or even a corpse hanging from a tree. I find those facts to be more than just eerie, I consider them downright scary.
I cannot imagine anyone who is not suicidal having a desire to visit such a locale. Some will point out that you can get a wonderful view of Mount Fuji, see 300- year- old trees, or visit Narusawa Ice Cave by going to the Sea of Trees. I tend to think that is one reason the internet exists…to see the photos of such places without having to travel to them. Now I also love to be scared and creeped out, so maybe, just maybe I am of two minds about the Japanese Death Forest.
Have you been there? Would you go there? Please let me know all about your ideas or impressions of the Suicide Forest in Japan.
The Other Half