Located on the northwest base of Mount Fuji, Aokigahara is a dense 35-square-kilometer forest well-known for a large number of suicides committed there and it is a tourist spot. Thought by some to be haunted by the ghosts of the dead in Japanese mythology and the home for paranormal activity because of the sheer number of people who die there, Aokigahara is also known as the Suicide Forest.
Sign is roughly translated as:
“Let’s think once more about the life you were given, your parents, your brothers and sisters, and children. Don’t suffer alone first please contact somebody. (And a phone number for a help hotline)”
The forest of Aokigahara is a popular site for suicides in Japan and a perfectly eerie place for tourists who are interested in the macabre.
Until 1988, around 30 people were reported to have committed suicide in the forest per year. Seventy-eight bodies were found in 2002, 105 in 2003, and as of 2010, an estimated 200 or more have committed suicide, with 54 of them succeeding.
In March every year, the end of fiscal year in Japan, suicides rates are said to be at a maximum. The most common methods for the act were hanging or drug overdose. Since 1970, police, volunteers, and journalists have been conducting searches for bodies every year.
Throughout history, suicide was considered a noble and morally honorable act in Japan.
Japan has a history of ritual suicides for various reasons and the practice was very prevalent in the military. Some of the examples include the samurai committing suicide to avoid being captured or on account of defeat, kamikaze attacks during WWII or banzai charge suicide attack to bring honor or to prevent shame on one’s family. The samurai would slash their stomach with a sword and believed that it set free their spirit and prevented them from a dishonorable death at the hands of the enemy.
Japan has the highest suicide rate per year, with an average of 70 committing suicide every day in 2014. A vast majority, around 71 percent, of the victims were male and it is the leading cause of death in men between 20 and 44 years of age.
Since the 1990s, Japan saw an increase in the number of suicides because of unemployment due to economic recession, depression or social pressures. In 1998, after an increase in suicides by 34.7 percent over the previous year, the Japanese government increased funds to treat the causes and help those recovering from failed attempts.
At the entrance of the main trail into the Aokigahara forest, there is a sign that urges people with suicide on the mind to think of their families and seek help from suicide prevention association. To stop people associating the forest with suicide, the local officials have stopped releasing the numbers to the public.
Aokigahara complements its reputation for the morbid with a dense landscape that is difficult to navigate. It is quite easy to get lost if the trails are not followed.
Aokigahara is a very dense forest with a large number of rocky icy caverns that are popular among tourists. The forest is so thick that it shuts out all other sounds except the natural sounds of the forest itself and to avoid getting lost, most hikers and tourists use tapes to mark their paths so that they can get back if they get lost.