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Aokigahara, Misaka Mountains and Saiko Lake seen from Mount Ryu of Tenshi Mountains
Aokigahara in Yamanashi

Aokigahara (青木ヶ原), also known as the Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees (樹海, Jukai), is a forest on the northwestern flank of Japan's Mount Fuji thriving on 30 square kilometers (12 square miles) of hardened lava laid down by the last major eruption of Mount Fuji in 864 AD.[1] The western edge of Aokigahara, where there are several caves filled with ice, is a popular destination for tourists and school trips. Parts of Aokigahara are very dense, and the porous lava absorbs sound, helping to provide visitors with a sense of solitude.[2]

The forest has a historical reputation as a home to "yūrei" or ghosts of the dead in Japanese mythology. In recent years, Aokigahara has become internationally known as one of the world's most popular destinations for suicide,[3] and signs at the head of some trails urges suicidal visitors to think of their families and contact a suicide prevention association.[4][5] In an exhaustive 2017 feature story on Mount Fuji, Smithsonian magazine columnist Franz Lidz wrote: "Distraught teens and other troubled souls straggle through the 7,680-acre confusion of pine, boxwood and white cedar. In the eerie quiet, it’s easy to lose your way and those with second thoughts might struggle to retrace their steps. According to local legend, during the 1800s the Japanese custom of ubasute, in which elderly or infirm relatives were left to die in a remote location, was widely practiced in the Aokigahara.”[6]


Aokigahara is located in 100x100
Mount Fuji

The forest floor mostly consists of volcanic rock which can be difficult to penetrate with hand tools such as picks or shovels. Since the forest is very dense, hikers and tourists trekking through Aokigahara have begun to use plastic tape to mark their paths so as to avoid getting lost in recent years.[7] Beyond the designated trails leads to several 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 few obvious signs of human presence.[citation needed]

However, portrayals of Aokigahara where navigational compasses go haywire are false. For instance, conferring with two Japanese geologists, Masato Koyama at Shizuoka University and Akira Takada of the Geological Survey of Japan, they acknowledge that needles of magnetic compasses will move if placed directly on the lava, aligning with the rock's natural magnetism, which varies in iron content and strength by location. A compass behaves as expected when held at a normal height.[2]

Flora and Fauna[edit]

While clickbait articles on the Internet promoting Aokigahara as "creepy"[8] claim that there are no animals in the Aokigahara this is not true. The animals are just cautious and shy of human presence as in many popular tourist destinations. Many are nocturnal. The mammals include Asian Black bear,[9] Small Japanese mole,[10] bats,[1] mice,[1] deer, fox, boar, wild rabbit, Japanese mink and squirrel.[11] Birds include great tit, willow tit, long-tailed tit, magerahigara, higera, great spotted woodpecker, pygmy woodpecker, bush warbler, Eurasian jay, Japanese white-eye, Japanese thrush, brown-headed thrush, Siberian thrush, Hodgson’s hawk-cuckoo, Japanese grosbeak, lesser cuckoo, black-faced bunting, Oriental turtle dove, and common cuckoo.[11]

There are ground beetles and other insects,[1] including many species of butterflies, even in the forest interior Argynnis paphia, Chrysozephyrus smaragdinus, Celastrina argiolus, Celastrina sugitanii, Curetis acuta, Favonius jezoensis, Neptis sappho, Parantica sita and Polygonia c-album are found.[12]

The forest has a wide variety of conifers and broadleaf trees and shrubs including: Chamaecyparis obtusa,[12] Cryptomeria japonica,[13] Pinus densiflora, Pinus parviflora, Tsuga sieboldii, Acer distylum, Acer micranthum, Acer sieboldianum, Acer tschonoskii, Betula grossa, Chengiopanax sciadophylloides (as Acanthopanax sciadophylloides a.k.a. Eleutherococcus sciadophylloides), Clethra barbinervis, Enkianthus campanulatus, Euonymus macropterus, Ilex pedunculosa, Ilex macropoda, Pieris japonica, Prunus jamasakura, Quercus mongolica var. crispula, Rhododendron dilatatum, Skimmia japonica f. repens, Sorbus commixta (as Sorbus americana ssp. japonica) and Toxicodendron trichocarpum (as Rhus trichocarpa).[12] The dominant tree species between 1000 and 1800 metres of altitude is Tsuga diversifolia and from 1800 to 2200 metres is Abies veitchii.[13]

Even deep in the forest there are many herbaceous flowering plants including Artemisia princeps[12], Cirsium nipponicum var. incomptum[14], Corydalis incisa[12], Erigeron annuus[14], Geranium nepalense[14], Kalimeris pinnatifida[14], Maianthemum dilatatum[12], Oplismenus undulatifolius[12] and Polygonum cuspidatum[12]. There are also the myco-heterotrophic Monotropastrum humile,[11] frequent liverworts,[13] many mosses[13] and many ferns.[11] The forest edges have many more species[14].


Aokigahara is sometimes referred to as the most popular site for suicide in Japan. Statistics vary, but there were around up to 105 documented suicides a year.[15]

In 2003, 105 bodies were found in the forest, exceeding the previous record of 78 in 2002.[16] In 2010, the police recorded more than 200 people having attempted suicide in the forest, of whom 54 completed the act.[4] Suicides are said to increase during March, the end of the fiscal year in Japan.[17] As of 2011, the most common means of suicide in the forest were hanging or drug overdose.[4] In recent years, local officials have stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to decrease Aokigahara's association with suicide.[18]

The 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.[19][20][21]

The site's popularity has been attributed to Seichō Matsumoto's 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai (Black Sea of Trees).[5][22] 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 of those left to die.[18]

References in media[edit]

Aokigahara has been referred to in several media, including anime and manga, films, video games, literature, and music.


  1. ^ a b c d "The nature found in the Aokigahara "sea of trees"". Yamanashi Kankou. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Harrington, Patrick (22 January 2017). "Hiking in a Forest Born Out of Mount Fuji’s Lava". New York Times. p. TR8. 
  3. ^ "Why Mount Fuji Endures As a Powerful Force in Japan", May 2017 - Franz Lidz Smithsonian
  4. ^ a b c Gilhooly, Rob (26 June 2011). "Inside Japan's 'Suicide Forest'". Japan Times. p. 7. Retrieved 9 March 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Remling, Amanda (10 April 2012). "Japan Suicide Forest: Is A Novel To Blame For Hundreds Of Deaths?". International Business Times. Retrieved 9 March 2017. 
  6. ^ "Why Mount Fuji Endures As a Powerful Force in Japan", May 2017 - Franz Lidz Smithsonian
  7. ^ "Intruders tangle 'suicide forest' with tape". Asahi Shimbun. 3 May 2008. Archived from the original on 6 May 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2008. 
  8. ^ Matthews, David. "Japan's 'suicide forest' is creepier and sadder than any movie". Fusion. Retrieved 27 May 2017. 
  9. ^ Koike, Shinsuke; Hazumi, Toshihiro (2008). "Notes on Asiatic black bears denning habits in the Misaka Mountains, central Japan" (PDF). Ursus. 19 (1): 80–84. Retrieved 27 May 2017. 
  10. ^ Tsuchiya, Kimiyuki; Suzuki, Hitoshi; Shinohara, Akio; Harada, Masashi; Wakana, Shigeharu; Sakaizumi, Mitsuru; Han, Sang-Hoon; Lin, Liang-Kong; Kryukov, Alexei P (2000). "Molecular phylogeny of East Asian moles inferred from the sequence variation of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene". Genes & Genetic Systems. 75 (1): 17–24. doi:10.1266/ggs.75.17. Retrieved 27 May 2017. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Aokigahara "sea of trees" walking course". Charm of Mt Fuji. Yamanashi Tourism Organization. Retrieved 27 May 2017. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Kitahara, Masahiko; Watanabe, Maki (2003). "Diversity and rarity hotspots and conservation of butterfly communities in and around the Aokigahara woodland of Mount Fuji, central Japan" (PDF). Ecological Research. 18 (5): 503–522. doi:10.1046/j.1440-1703.2003.00574.x. Retrieved 27 May 2017. 
  13. ^ a b c d Inoue, Hiroshi (December 1, 1981). "Hepaticae of Mt. Fuji, Central Japan" (PDF). Memoirs of the National Science Museum, Tokyo. 14: 59–74. Retrieved 27 May 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c d e Kitahara, Masahiko; Masahiko, Mitsuko; Kobayashi, Takato (2008). "Relationship of butterfly diversity with nectar plant species richness in and around the Aokigahara primary woodland of Mount Fuji, central Japan" (PDF). Biodiversity and Conservation. 17: 2713–2734. doi:10.1007/s10531-007-9265-4. Retrieved 28 May 2017. 
  15. ^ Lah, Kyung (19 March 2009). "Desperate Japanese head to 'suicide forest'". Retrieved 10 April 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.' 
  16. ^ "Aokigahara forest". 14 February 2014. 
  17. ^ Lah, Kyung (19 March 2009). "Desperate Japanese head to 'suicide forest'". Asia. Retrieved 10 April 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.' 
  18. ^ a b Malinovski, Pejk (30 January 2009). Suicide Forest. Studio 360. WNYC & PRI. 
  19. ^ "Japan's harvest of 69 death". The Independent. London. 24 October 2000. Archived from the original on 24 April 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2008. 
  20. ^ Hadfield, Peter (16 June 2001). "Japan struggles with 69 soaring death toll in Suicide Forest". The Sunday Telegraph. London. 
  21. ^ "'Suicide forest' helps skew Yamanashi's statistics". Japan Times. 9 May 2012. p. 3. Retrieved 9 March 2017. 
  22. ^ 波の塔〈下〉(文春文庫): 松本 清張: 本 (in Japanese). Tōkyō: Bungeishunjū. 2009. ISBN 978-4167697235. 

External links[edit]

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