The Suicide Forest
Aokigahara is 14 square mile forest that sits at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, with a chilling nickname “Suicide Forest.” This extremely dense forest is where many people go to end their pain, suffering and take their final breath. Suicides at Aokigahara have been so common over the years that there is even a sign at the beginning of the main trail that urges anyone who plans to commit suicide to think about their family and to contact a suicide prevention association. This location has always fascinated me, making me want to find out why these individuals choose Aokigahara to take their own lives.
Is Aokigahara Just a Regular Forest?
Mount Fuji erupted in the year 864 and the forest grew over the dried lava. The original name of this forest is Aokigahara, but people started calling it Jukai, or “Sea of Trees,” later to be dubbed Japan’s “Suicide Forest.” This stunning forest is green all year long and looks like the ocean from halfway up the mountain.
One of the creepiest things about the forest, aside from the suicides, is the eerie lack of noise upon entering the forest. The way that the trees in this forest are so densely packed together blocks out any wind and sunlight, making it dark and eerily silent. The floor of the forest is rocky and extremely uneven with twisted vines, making it easy to trip even the most experienced hiker. Since there are high levels of magnetic ore in the forest’s soil, it’s common for compasses and cell phones to fail, preventing you from getting help if you find you need it.
Legend states that during ancient times when there was not enough food to go around, families would sacrifice people by abandoning them in the forest. They believed that with fewer mouths to feed there would be enough food to go around. Individuals were left in the forest to die, usually, long painful deaths caused by starvation. This legend also suggests that Aokigahara is haunted by the spirits of those that were abandoned.
The freaky thing is that there is actually truth behind this legend. It was common, and even mandatory by some rulers in ancient times to leave an elderly relative in a remote location, such as a forest, to die. Aokigahara became a popular place to do just that, which is probably why the forest became associated with death.
Paranormal Activity in the Suicide Forest
With so many deaths per year, this place is crawling with paranormal activity. Many individuals share stories of seeing demons, ghosts, and other ghastly spirits. They tend to glide between trees with white forms and are usually spotted out of the corner of someone’s eyes. Some believe the spirits of the forest prevent many people from being able to leave. There are numerous stories about experienced hikers that had a very hard time finding their way out, often going in circles for days until they finally escaped the forest’s wrath.
Most locals don’t enter the forest to commit suicide. Children in the area grow up learning that they should never come to the forest because it’s a “scary forest.” The majority of individuals hang themselves, and nooses can be spotted hanging from trees and littering the forest floor. Others attempt to end their life by taking sleeping pills, many of which are unsuccessful.
There is one path blocked off to the public with a chain and a “Do Not Enter” sign because this path can be confusing and individuals have a tough time finding their way. Individuals with suicide on their mind often take this path because they don’t plan on needing to find the way out. Individuals who are indecisive about dying often wrap tape around the trees as they venture along the path in case they decide they change their minds and do want to leave.
The statistics of suicides in the forest vary and local officials decided in recent years not to publicize the number in an effort to downplay the forest’s association with suicides. In just 2003 alone, there were 105 bodies found. Approximately 247 individuals attempted suicide in Aokigahara, with 54 of them successful suicide attempts. Since 1970, police and volunteers conduct body searches each year not to prevent suicides but to find corpses so they can have a proper burial.
There are individuals that do patrol the forest to try and talk individuals out of committing suicide. When someone enters the forest and brings a tent, it is common that they are undecided about their fate and need a few days to go through with ending their life or going back home.
Not Everyone that Enters the Forest Wants to Die
Believe it or not, this forest is a popular tourist attraction, not because of the deaths, but because of the beautiful scenery and the stunning Narusawa Ice Cave. If you don’t wish to see anything that will cause you to have nightmares for life, you should stick to the path only. If you decide to venture off the path, you can get lost or find ghastly remains, bodies dangling from nooses tied to trees, human bones protruding from the earth, and personal belongings from individuals that entered the forest and never made it out.
In Popular Culture
Aokigahara is a common subject for popular culture. Some movies about this creepy forest include Forest of the Living Dead, Grave Halloween, 47 Ronin, The Sea of Trees, The Forest, and The People Garden. Some books to check out about the forest are The Three by Sarah Lotz, Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates, and The Sea of Trees by Yannick Murphey.