March 20, 2024 | Allison Robertson

The Mysterious Aokigahara Forest


The Aokigahara Forest

The Aokigahara Forest is a wooded area so thick of foliage that it is often considered the “Sea of Trees.” But that’s not all this forest is known for, in fact it has a rather grim reputation.

Forest split image

Location

The Aokigahara Forest is located northwest of Mount Fuji, on the island of Honshu in Japan.

Mount Fuji with cherry blossomAeypix, Shutterstock

Size

It spans across 13.5 square miles of thick forest, with several trails leading to caves and lakes. Though not very big, it feels larger, and more remote than it actually is due to its rugged terrain.

The rugged terrain and thick forest are what makes it appealing to people with a specific, dark goal in mind.

Tunnel trail at Aokigahara Forest in JapanSean Pavone, Shutterstock

Reputation

Many visitors have chosen the Aokigahara Forest as the setting for their final moments, walking into the deepest parts of the forest with no intentions on coming back out.

This happens more than anyone would like to admit.

The Aokigahara forestFarid Ayvazov, Shutterstock

Loss of Life

Intentional losses of life happen so often in the Aokigahara Forest that the area now has the second-highest rate of people ending their own lives, after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Aokigahara Forest. Mysterious forest in the Japanese Mount Fuji regionMarvin Minder, Shutterstock

Statistics

It is estimated that between 30 to 100 people each year take their own lives in the Aokigahara Forest.

However, current numbers are no longer made public as the Japanese government fear it might encourage further losses.

Mysterious forest of AokigaharaAberu.Go, Shutterstock

Traditional Japanese Rituals

Self-inflicted loss doesn’t have the same stigma in Japan that it does in other areas of the world. The practice of seppuku is an honorable way to take your own life, and it dates back to Japan’s feudal era.

Although it is not widely practiced today, Japan still struggles with a high rate of loss.

Japanese Samurai armorsSuzan.P, Shutterstock

Japan’s Statistics

Japan experienced a financial crisis in 2008 that lead to a significant increase in people taking their own lives. And while numbers changed over the years, the numbers have been recently rising.

The forest of AokigaharaSoul of Phoenix, Shutterstock

2022 Statistics

In 2022, the self-inflicted loss of life rates increased by 2.7 percent, making it one of the leading causes of loss for men between the ages of 20-44, and women between the ages of 15-34.

Aokigahara forestdowraik, Shutterstock

The Government’s Intervention

The Japanese government announced plans in 2017 to reduce the loss of life rates by 30 percent over the next decade.

They’re doing this by starting with Aokigahara forest specifically.

Aokigahara Forestb-hide the scene, Shutterstock

Safety Measures

In hopes of preventing further loss, the government has now posted security cameras at the forest’s entrance, increasing patrol in the area, and posting various signs throughout the forest with specific messages.

Aokigahara Forest entranceLiz Mc, CC BY 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

Safety Signs

Some of the safety signs along forest trails read things like: “Think carefully about your children, your family,” and “Your life is a precious gift from your parents.”

But there’s one thing they can’t change in the forest that would help if they could.

Aokigahara (suicide forest)Liz Mc, Flickr

The Heights

According to Mental Floss, the second most common method of taking your own life in Japan is by hanging. So much so that the government has actually increased the height of certain bridge railings to curb further attempts.

But this can’t be done in the Aokigahara forest. So, what is it about this forest that makes people want to do this?

Aokigahara Forest in JapanBig Ben, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Spooky Setting

The forest is filled with creepy looking trees that twist and turn and have roots sticking up out of the ground along trails. The ground is uneven, rocky, and filled with caves.

All of this contributes to what makes this forest specifically preferred by those looking to end their lives.

Aokigahara Forest in Japantsuchi, Shutterstock

A Difficult Discovery

Aside from tight tree lines and sparce wildlife, it is believed that this location is preferred as it may be difficult to discover and recover bodies.

But that’s not the only reason.

Aokigahara suicide forest in Tokyo, Japanshu2260, Shutterstock

A Grim History

For many years, the Japanese culture have believed the forest to contain yūrei—mythological Japanese ghosts filled with anger and vengefulness.

This belief has led to several intriguing reports from visitors

Yurei japan culture ghostBrigham Young University, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Strange Phenomena

Some visitors have reported strange phenomena, like compasses breaking, as well as GPS devices and smartphones no longer working while within the boundaries of the forest.

There is also another possible connection to the forest that stems from traditional Japanese culture.

Aokigahara forestmokokomo, Shutterstock

The Practice of Ubasute

It’s possible that this practice is nothing more than a product of folklore, but either way, it adds an interesting perspective.

Ubasute was an apparent practice in Japan that occurred during times of famine.

UbasuteYoshitoshi, Wikimedia Commons

Ubasute Explained

Roughly translating to “abandoning an old woman”, ubasute involved decreasing the number of mouths to feed by leading elderly relatives to a remote environment to pass from dehydration, starvation, or exposure.

Given all of these intriguing practices, it makes sense that the Japanese people consider the forest to be haunted.

Aokigahara forestSoul of Phoenix, Shutterstock

A Haunted Forest

It is now believed that the spirits of those who have taken their own lives within the Aokigahara forest still linger in the woods.

Folklore claims they are vengeful, dedicated to tormenting visitors and luring those who are sad and lost off the paths.

the aokigahara forestkt-wat, Shutterstock

Annual Searches

Annual searches for the lost have been held in Aokigahara since 1970. Volunteers patrol the area and recover the remains.

Authorities and volunteers trek through the challenging terrain and personally carry the bodies out to be properly buried.

Aokigahara Forest in JapanTupungato, Shutterstock

Search Recoveries

In the early 2000s, 70 to 100 people’s remains were uncovered each year.

As mentioned before, the Japanese government no longer publicizes this information—especially amid controversies surrounding the forest.

aokigahara forestThomas van Dijk, Shutterstock

Controversy

In 2017, American YouTuber Logan Paul shared a controversial video of his experience in the Aokigahara forest, where he recorded himself and his friends as they walked through the forest, and discovered an unalive body.

Logan Paul at the Teen Choice Awards 2017Kathy Hutchins, Shutterstock

Logan Paul’s Video

Logan Paul’s group of friends were initially shocked upon the discovery of the unalive body—which was hanging from a tree.

But their millions of views came with more than the fame they were hoping for.

Two men film videos in forestbodnar.photo, Shutterstock

Paul’s Apology

Logan Paul’s video reached millions of people within a short time frame, and it also attracted thousands of disapproving comments.

Paul formally apologized days later, and since then, people all over the globe are pleading for change.

Logan Paul at the Audi Pre-Emmy PartyKathy Hutchins, Shutterstock

Pleading for Change

Many people want the forest to be closed off the to public—however that is not as easily done as they may think.

It is also a very popular hiking spot for many visitors who do not have the same dark goal in mind as many people before them.

Aokigahara (The Suicide Forest)dowraik, Shutterstock

The Government’s Acknowledgment

The Japanese government acknowledge the controversy, and continue to implement efforts to make it a safer place for all.

But—if we’re honest, the dark history makes the forest more appealing.

Aokigahara (suicide forest)Liz Mc, Flickr

Tourism

Today, the forest is open to self-guided visitors, and also offers guided tours for visitors who do not wish to navigate the forest alone.

Cave tours are the most popular. But the entire forest is known for more than just its tragic happenings.

Cave in Aokigahara Jukai forestShawn.ccf, Shutterstock

Beauty

Many visitors have reported that the Aokigahara forest is actually quite stunning inside.

Although it is eerily quiet as the wind doesn’t often make it inside the trees, the shades of green with the sun peering through the tops of the trees is a beautiful sight to see.

Aokigahara forestKKKvintage, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

Although the Aokigahara forest is known for something terrible and sad, it is actually one of the most beautiful forests on this Earth and deserves recognition for something positive.

Aokigahara ForestMarvin Minder, Shutterstock

Sources: 1, 2, 3


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