Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Aokigahara Forest...Japan's Suicide Forest

Called "the perfect place to die," the Aokigahara forest has the unfortunate distinction as the world's second most popular place to take one's life. (The first is the Golden Gate Bridge.) Aokigahara is a woodland forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan that makes The Blair Witch Project forest look like Winnie the Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood. It probably has something to do with all the dead bodies scattered around.
Japanese spiritualists believe that the suicides committed in the forest have permeated Aokigahara's trees and landscape, generating paranormal activity and preventing many who enter from escaping the forest's depths. Complicating matters further is the common experience of compasses being rendered useless by the rich deposits of magnetic iron in the area's volcanic soil that can lead to visitors becoming lost.
What Niagara Falls is to weddings, Aokigahara is to suicide. How many suicides does it takes for a place to get that reputation? A dozen? Fifty? More than 500 people have taken their own lives in Aokigahara since the 1950s. The trend had supposedly started after Seicho Matsumoto published his novel Kuroi Kaiju (Black Sea of Trees) where two of his characters commit suicide there. Seeming eager to prove they are bizarrely susceptible to suggestion, hundreds of Japanese people have hanged themselves among the countless trees of the Aokigahara forest, which is reportedly so thick that even at high noon it is not hard to find places completely surrounded by darkness.

Besides bodies and homemade nooses, the area is littered with signs placed there by the government displaying such messages like "Life is a precious thing! Please reconsider!" or "Think of your family!"
In the 1970's, the problem gained national attention and the Japanese government began doing annual sweeps of the forest in search of bodies.  They found 78 in 2002 alone, but who knows how many they may have missed? In all likelihood there is probably a person who has hung themselves somewhere in Aokigahara on any given day.
By the way, if an entire dark forest full of hanging corpses wasn't bad enough, a few years ago some people noticed that a lot of the dead in Aokigahara probably had cash or jewelry on them. So, one may encounter scavengers around the Death Forest, looking for the dead to rob. This begs the question of whether some are suicides or some are murders.
Police and forest workers see the events of suicide all to often in the forest. The forest workers must carry the bodies down from the forest to the local police station, where the bodies are put in a special room used specifically to house suicide corpses. The forest workers then play jan-ken-pon—which English-speakers call rock, paper, scissors—to see who has to sleep in the room with the corpse until it can be officially taken care of. It is believed that leaving the corpse alone is very bad luck, for the yurei (ghost) of the suicide victim will scream through the night, and the body will move itself on its own. Yeah, that's not creepy at all.

Article from and Atlas Obscura.

More reading on the topic is available at these websites...

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