The forest contains a large number of rocky icy caverns, a few of which are popular tourist destinations. Aokigahara forest is very dense, shutting out all but the natural sounds of the forest itself. The forest has a historic association with "yūrei" or angry ghosts of the dead in Japanese mythology, and it is a notoriously common suicide site (in which 54 took place in 2010). For this reason, a sign at the head of the main trail urges suicidal visitors to think of their families and contact a suicide prevention association.
The forest floor consists primarily of volcanic rock and is difficult to penetrate with hand tools such as picks or shovels. The forest itself is very dense, and one can get lost easily if leaving the official trails. Because of this, 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. Past the designated trails leading to tourist attractions such as the Ice Cave and Wind Cave, the first kilometer of the forest is littered with tape and other rubbish left by tourists, despite officials' attempts to remove it. After the first kilometer into Aokigahara towards Mount Fuji within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the forest is in better condition, with little to no litter and few obvious signs of human presence.
The forest is reportedly the most popular site for suicide in Japan, and among the top three most popular sites for suicide in the world[clarification needed]. Statistics vary, but there were around 30 suicides documented every year during the period leading up to 1988.
In 2003, 105 bodies were found in the forest, exceeding the previous record of 78 in 2002. In 2010, it was estimated that more than 200 people had attempted suicide in the forest, of whom 54 completed the act. Suicides are said to increase during March, the end of the fiscal year in Japan. As of 2011, the most common means of suicide in the forest were hanging or drug overdose. In recent years, local officials have stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to downplay Aokigahara's association with suicide.
The high rate of suicide has led officials to place a sign at the forest's entry, written in Japanese, urging suicidal visitors to seek help and not take their own lives. Annual body searches have been conducted by police, volunteers, and attendant journalists since 1970.
The site's popularity has been attributed to Seichō Matsumoto's 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai (Black Sea of Trees). 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.
References in media
A novella by Robert James Russell, Sea of Trees, details a hike through the Aokigahara forest by a young Japanese woman, Junko, and her male American companion, Bill. While the central portion of the story centers on Junko's quest to find details of her sister's suicide in the forest, many other stories of suicides taking place in Aokigahara are detailed. The 2015 film "The Sea of Trees", starring Matthew McConaughey, tells the story of a suicidal American who befriends a Japanese man lost in the Aokigahara forest and the two search for a way out. In addition the 2016 film The Forest follows a similar storyline and mirrors the events of the book.
- Zack Davisson. "The Suicide Woods of Mt. Fuji". Seek Japan.
- Gilhooly, Rob (26 June 2011). "Inside Japan's 'Suicide Forest'". Japan Times. p. 7.
- 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.
- "Intruders tangle 'suicide forest' with tape". Asahi Shimbun. 2008-05-03. Archived from the original on 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
- Takahashi, Yoshitomo (1988). "EJ383602 - Aokigahara-jukai: Suicide and Amnesia in Mt. Fuji's Black Forest". Education Resources Information Center (ERIC). Retrieved September 20, 2008.
- "Aokigahara forest". February 14, 2014.
- Lah, Kyung (March 19, 2009). "Desperate Japanese head to 'suicide forest'". CNN.com. Asia. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
'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.'
- ROB GILHOOLY, Special to The Japan Times (June 26, 2011). "SUNDAY TIMEOUT: Inside Japan's 'Suicide Forest'". Japan Times. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
- "Suicide Forest". Studio 360. Japan. January 8, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2010.
- "Japan's harvest of 69 death". The Independent. London. October 24, 2000. Archived from the original on 24 April 2008. Retrieved May 3, 2008.
- Hadfield, Peter (June 16, 2001). "Japan struggles with 69 soaring death toll in Suicide Forest". The Sunday Telegraph. London.
- "Kyodo News: 'Suicide forest' helps skew Yamanashi's statistics". Japan Times. May 9, 2012. p. 3.
- 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aokigahara.|
- "Aokigahara Forest information". Aokighara Forest.
- "Video segment about the suicide patrol". Vice magazine.