Aokigahara

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For the film about suicides in the forest, see Sea of Trees (film).
Aokigahara and Saiko Lake, as viewed from Koyodai in 1995
Aokigahara in 2012

Aokigahara (青木ヶ原?), also known as the Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees (樹海 Jukai?), is a 35-square-kilometre (14 sq mi) forest that lies at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The forest contains a number of rocky, icy caverns, a few of which are popular tourist destinations. Due to the wind-blocking density of the trees and an absence of nearly any wildlife, the forest is known for being exceptionally quiet.[1]

The forest has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology and is a popular place for suicides (57 in 2010)[2] despite numerous signs, in Japanese and English, urging people to reconsider their actions.[3]

Geography[edit]

The forest floor consists primarily of volcanic rock and is difficult to penetrate with hard tools such as picks or shovels. There is also a variety of unofficial trails that are used semi-regularly for the annual "body hunt" done by local volunteers. In recent years, hikers and tourists trekking through Aokigahara have begun to use plastic tape to mark their paths so as to avoid getting lost.[4] Though officials try to remove the tape time and time again, tourists and thrill-seekers inevitably leave more and more litter, and a great deal of it lies scattered throughout the first kilometer of the forest, past the designated trails leading to tourist attractions such as the Ice Cave and Wind Cave. After the first kilometer into Aokigahara towards Mount Fuji, the forest is in a more "pristine" condition, with little to no litter and few obvious signs of human presence.[citation needed]

Visitors and suicides[edit]

The forest is a popular place for suicides, reportedly the most popular in Japan. Statistics vary, but what is documented is that during the period leading up to 1988, about 100 suicides occurred there every year.[5]

In 2003, 105 bodies were found in the forest, exceeding the previous record of 78 in 2002.[6] In recent years, the local government has stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to downplay Aokigahara's association with suicide.[7] In 2004, 108 people killed themselves in the forest. In 2010, 247 people attempted suicide in the forest, 54 of whom completed the act.[2] Suicides are said to increase during March, the end of the fiscal year in Japan.[8] As of 2011, the most common means of suicide in the forest were hanging and drug overdoses.[9]

The high rate of suicide has led officials to place signs in the forest, in Japanese and English, urging suicidal visitors to seek help and not kill themselves. Annual body searches have been conducted by police, volunteers, and attendant journalists since 1970.[10][11][12]

The site's popularity has been attributed to the 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai (Black Sea of Trees) by Seichō Matsumoto.[13] However, the history of suicide in Aokigahara predates the novel's publication, and the place has long been associated with death: ubasute may have been practiced there into the nineteenth century, and the forest is reputedly haunted by the Yūrei (angry spirits) of those left to die.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Zack Davisson. "The Suicide Woods of Mt. Fuji". Seek Japan. 
  2. ^ a b Gilhooly, Rob (26 June 2011). "Inside Japan's 'Suicide Forest'". Japan Times. p. 7. 
  3. ^ Brennan, Lyle (10 April 2012). "The suicide forest of Japan: Mount Fuji beauty spot where up to 100 bodies are found every year". Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  4. ^ "Intruders tangle 'suicide forest' with tape". Asahi Shimbun. 2008-05-03. Archived from the original on 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  5. ^ Takahashi, Yoshitomo (1988). "EJ383602 - Aokigahara-jukai: Suicide and Amnesia in Mt. Fuji's Black Forest". Education Resources Information Center (ERIC). Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  6. ^ "Aokigahara forest". 2014-02-14. 
  7. ^ a b Studio 360:Suicide Forest. Studio 360 in Japan (radio program). January 8, 2010. Accessed: February 11, 2010.
  8. ^ Lah, Kyung (March 19, 2009). "Desperate Japanese head to 'suicide forest'". CNN.com/Asia. Retrieved 2012-04-10. "'Especially in March, the end of the fiscal year, more suicidal people will come here because of the bad economy,' he said. 'It's my dream to stop suicides in this forest, but to be honest, it would be difficult to prevent all the cases here.'" 
  9. ^ ROB GILHOOLY, Special to The Japan Times (June 26, 2011). "SUNDAY TIMEOUT: Inside Japan's 'Suicide Forest'". Japan Times. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "Japan's harvest of death". The Independent (London). 2000-10-24. Archived from the original on 24 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  11. ^ Hadfield, Peter. "Japan struggles with soaring death toll in Suicide Forest", The Sunday Telegraph (London). June 16, 2001.
  12. ^ Kyodo News, "'Suicide forest' helps skew Yamanashi's statistics", Japan Times, 9 May 2012, p. 3.
  13. ^ 波の塔〈下〉(文春文庫): 松本 清張: 本 (in Japanese). Tōkyō: Bungeishunjū. 2009. ISBN 978-4167697235. Retrieved 11 January 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°28′12″N 138°37′11″E / 35.47000°N 138.61972°E / 35.47000; 138.61972