Located on the northwest flank of Japan’s Mt. Fuji, trees thrive on 30 square kilometers of hardened lava and individuals determined to end their lives are lost within a vast expanse of green. The canopy is so dense that sun barely permeates and nobody can hear your cries for help.
Many people choose to end their lives in the Suicide Forest, also known as Aokigahara or Sea of Trees. It is the second most popular place to take your life, the Golden Gate Bridge takes first place, and people have been wandering into the depths of the forest since the 1950’s, never to return. On average, there are 10-20 suicides per year. In 2003, 105 people took their lives, a chart-topping year for Aokigahara.
As you enter the forest and make your way around, you come upon various signs to deter suicidal individuals. The signs read, “Your life is a precious gift from your parents” and “Please consult the police before you decide to die.” Due to the dense foliage and meandering pathways, many visitors will never encounter another living human being, so the signs were placed by park officials. Annually, upwards of 70 corpses per year are found by volunteers who wander the forest. Many of those who go into Aokigahara are never seen again, dead or alive, so bodies can sit for years without being discovered. Volunteers and authorities have tried to reach out to visitors to inform them of the forest’s history and to make them aware of the real possibility of forever being part of Aokigahara. Japanese spiritualists believe that death has permeated the soil and trees, causing the forest to be a hub of paranormal activity. Japanese folklore states that ghosts, known as yurei, lure unsuspecting individuals off the path to their deaths. At night, it is said that you can hear lost spirits crying out.
Volunteers are tasked with locating remains and bringing them back to a small ranger’s station set aside specifically for cases of suicide. The workers then essentially flip a coin to decide who must sleep in the same room with the body as Japanese culture dictates that it is bad for the ghost of the person if the body is left alone. The remains are said to scream and the bodies sometimes move in the night.
Visitors to the park who decide to venture off the main trails are often greeted by gruesome discoveries. As many sets of remains are concealed by overgrowth and tree roots, those stumbling through the forest often find corpses. Tape and string are also strewn about in a seemingly illogical fashion. Some come to the forest to explore and mark their way into the dense portions. The tape helps them find their way out, because cell phones and GPS are rendered useless due to high levels of iron in the volcanic soil. Occasionally, tents are also found in the forest. Volunteers have come to believe that a person who brings a tent is in doubt of their choice to take their life. They camp for a few days and then either find their way out or become part of Aokigahara.
The most popular way to commit suicide appears to be hanging. Nooses hang from trees, stained with the remains of decomposing corpses. Occasionally, you’ll stumble upon a rope that has been cut and is left hanging in a tree. These ropes are cut when volunteers find a body. The body is cut down and brought out of the forest. Many volunteers consider these people the lucky ones.
**Note** I have refrained from posting any graphic images on this page. If you would like to search images for the Suicide Forest, Google is your friend. If you are faint of heart, I would recommend sticking to the images in this article.
Have you ever visited Aokigahara? Would you spend the night in the forest? Chat us up in the comments or tweet us @hauntheadscast!
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