Exploring Aokigahara: Unveiling the Mysteries of Japan's Enigmatic Forest of Suicides

Aokigahara is the second place in the world where the most people go to end their lives. The first is the popular Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (USA). Located on the northwest flank of Japan’s majestic Mount Fuji is Aokigahara, a dense forest also known as the ‘sea of trees’

Aokigahara is a 35 square kilometer forest located northwest of Mount Fuji between Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures in Japan, about 100 kilometers west of Tokyo. This natural space of great beauty, known as the suicide forest , has a dense blanket of pine trees that treasures and hides a long history of unfortunate stories and Japanese mythology full of demons.

Key Points :- The Sea of Trees located in Japan has the unfortunate honor of being the place where the most people commit suicide in the country.

In fact, there are poems 1,000 years old that speak of this Japanese corner as a ‘cursed forest’ . Such is the influx of people who come every year to take their lives in this -dark- forest, that the government installed various warning signs in several languages to try to change the opinion of those who come for this reason. Some of the messages say: ‘Your life is a beautiful gift from your parents. Please think about your parents, siblings and children. Don’t keep it to yourself. Talk about your problems’, ‘Don’t suffer alone, first contact someone’…

Aokigahara, the forest of suicides
image credit- Aero Travels

The Japanese government has even gone so far as to close certain areas; Tourism is only allowed in guarded areas. Even so, suicides continue to occur, reaching almost a hundred deaths a year (although the government refuses to give specific figures, this is the estimate).

Despite being an unwanted gruesome setting, the forest is filled with ancient trees, lava formations, and underground caves . And the surface of the forest is made up of a thick layer of volcanic rock. Its formation is due to lava flows from the repeated eruptions of Mount Fuji during the years 800 and 1083 , with the eruption of the year 864 – which lasted 10 days – being the one that contributed the most to creating what we know today as Aokigahara.

Silence and darkness reign inside, as wildlife is almost non-existent and the area is full of cold, rocky caverns. In this deep sea of trees it is very easy to get lost , which is why hikers who enter it usually leave colored ribbons tied to the trees to facilitate the return of repentant suicides.

The forest is also home to several animal species, including foxes, rabbits and a variety of birds. However, the dense vegetation and tranquil nature of the forest make wildlife sightings relatively rare.

Something even more disturbing – if possible – is walking through the forest and seeing the details as souvenirs that the relatives of the suicides deposit right in the area where they ended their lives. The scene is desolate.

Be that as it may, this grim reputation has been further perpetuated by popular culture, including movies and literature. Others cite Japanese society and the persistent cultural notion that suicide can be an honorable way of taking responsibility as reasons for its tragic popularity.

This choice of the Aokigahara forest to die is partly inspired by the story Kuroi Jukai ( “The Black Sea of Trees” ) by Seicho Matsumoto, published in 1960, whose story ends with a couple of lovers taking their lives in this place. However, others believe that it comes from the 19th century Ubasute practice, in which older people were abandoned in the forests to die there, especially in times of drought and famine, making it a place ‘haunted’ by souls . of the children and elderly who were abandoned.

There is also the ‘ Complete Suicide Manual’ (published in 1993 and currently banned in Japan), which describes the forest as a “perfect place to die.”

In recent years, concerted efforts have been made to transform Aokigahara’s reputation and offer support to people in crisis. Signs with messages of hope and suicide prevention hotline numbers have been posted throughout the forest.

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