Located less than 100 miles west of the city of Tokyo and located at the base of Mount Fugi, sits a dense and desolate place known as The Aokigahara Forest. It is formed in the lava flow from that famous volcano from the 9th century. There are also 2 caves located in the forest, known as the Ice Cave and the Wind Cave, which makes this location especially favored by tourists.
Unlike most forests, there is hardly any wild life that resides within the forest, which makes it a very quiet place to be. This is one of the reasons that it is so popular with the locals. This dense and quiet forest holds a much darker secret in its’ quietness, because it’s the number one spot for the Japanese to visit when they decide to commit suicide.
Many people consider the quietness of the forest to mean that it’s haunted and there are a lot of the Japanese people that refuse to even consider entering this place of death.
There have been so many suicides to take place here that the police no longer publish the yearly data. In 2003, it was made public for the last time when there were a staggering 105 confirmed suicides. Many believe that more suicides happen in the forest than are confirmed, but that their bodies are never found due to the denseness of the forest.
When you enter The Aokigahara Forest, there are signs posted in both Japanese and English, trying to dissuade suicide as an end. One states, “Your life is something precious that was given to you by your parents”. Another states, “Meditate on your parents, siblings and your children once more. Do not be troubled alone.”.
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]It’s hard for officials to profile the average person that seeks out The Aokigahara Forest to end their lives.[/pullquote] The ones found are usually males between the ages of 40-50 years old. March seems to be the most active month for people deciding to end their lives. Some people think this is the most active month for suicides because it marks the end of Japan’s fiscal year.
The Aokigahara Forest hasn’t always been a place where people went wishing to end their lives. Although there is evidence that tells us that as far back as the 19th Century, this forest is where the Japanese would take their elders to die of starvation, which is a practice called ubasute. In the 1960’s a novel entitled “Tower of Waves” talked about a couple going into this forest together to commit suicide and first made this a popular place to end a life. In 1993, another book, this one by Wataru Tsurumi, entitled, “The Complete Manual of Suicide” fanned the flames and the suicide rate increased. This book even described parts of the forest that are less visited, so that bodies cannot be found later.
As macabre as it may sound, the Japanese organize an annual body sweep of the forest prior to the holiday season. They remove all bodies that can be found, and if possible identify them for their families.
It is quite baffling why there is such a high rate of suicides in Japan. It may have something to do with the Japanese psyche and the fact that many Japanese men feel rejected when they become entrenched. Most of them held position of high authority within the companies where they worked.
Maybe they felt as if they could not face their families and friends. In the same manner as the Samurai Warriors, of days gone by, perhaps they felt that suicide was the one way that they could atone for their failures in life.