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. Aokigahara forest is dense, shutting out all but the natural sounds of the forest itself.
The forest has an historic association with demons in Japanese mythology, and it is a notoriously common suicide site (in which 57 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, hikers and tourists trekking through Aokigahara, in recent years, 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 the officials' attempts to remove it. After the first kilometer into Aokigahara towards Mount Fuji, the forest is in better condition, with little to no litter and few obvious signs of human presence.
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.
In 2003, 105 bodies were found in the forest, exceeding the previous record of 78 in 2002. In recent years, the local government has stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to downplay Aokigahara's association with suicide. In 2004, 108 people killed themselves in the forest. In 2010, it is estimated that more than 200 people had attempted suicide in the forest, 54 of who 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 hangings and drug overdoses.
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 kill themselves. 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
Anime and manga
- In the anime series Mazinger Z, Professor Juzo Kabuto's laboratory is set right next to Aokigahara, and he lives not too far from there with his grandsons Koji and Shiro.
- In the anime series Transformers: Super-God Masterforce, the location of the Cybertrons' main base is in Aokigahara.
- Forest of the Living Dead (2010), also known outside of the United States as The Forest, depicts the enacted vengeance of a jilted covergirl who supernaturally transforms into a demonic spirit when she kills herself in Aokigahara Jukai.
- In the movie Grave Halloween (2013), a young woman journeys to Aokigahara with friends to find the body of her biological mother (who committed suicide there) and save her mother's restless spirit. A video camera documents harrowing and deadly paranormal events in the forest.
- In the movie The Sea of Trees (2015), directed by Gus Van Sant, an American man (played by Matthew McConaughey) travels to Aokigahara to kill himself and meets a Japanese man (played by Ken Watanabe) who has same thoughts.
- In the upcoming film The Forest, a woman (played by Natalie Dormer) travels to a ghost-filled Aokigahara to save her sister (also played by Dormer).
- In the fighting game Akatsuki Blitzkampf, the protagonist Akatsuki's stage is set in the bank of Lake Sai and the beginning of Aokigahara.
- The Nazi Zombies map "Shi No Numa" (Swamp of Death) appearing in Map Pack 2 of Call of Duty: World at War was inspired by the setting of Aokigahara.
- Mount Hikami, the setting of the Wii U video game Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, is based on Aokigahara.
- As mentioned already, Kuroi Jukai (Black Sea of Trees) by Seichō Matsumoto is a novel that refers to the popularity of the forest as a suicide spot.
- "The Three by Sarah Lotz features Aokigahara as a place where several characters perished, either in plane crashes or by choice.
- The album The Sea of Trees (2015) by Secret Grief is named after the forest and includes a track called "Aokigahara".
- Japanese metal band Dir En Grey includes an artist rendering of the forest on the cover of its album Dum Spiro Spero.
- The Album "Aokigahara" by Austrian Black Metal band Harakiri for the Sky was named after the forest.
- The song "Kuroi Ledge" (2013) by post-hardcore outfit A Lot Like Birds makes reference to the book named after the forest
- 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.
- "Suicide Forest". Studio 360 (Japan). January 8, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2010.
- 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.
- "Japan's harvest of 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 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.