The Secrets of Aokigahara
Many people love to go to forests to hike and see the sights, take pictures and smell the fresh air. There is one forest, however, that I highly recommend you never visit. That's the 14 square mile Aokigahara Forest, also known as "The Suicide Forest". Now, before I go any further, I want to say that if you are thinking about suicide or if you know someone who is, please seek help. You are wanted and you are important, whether you see it or not. Talk to your parents, your friends, boy/girlfriend, anyone willing to listen.
At the entrance of Aokigahara, there are many signs scattered about, begging its visitors to please consider what they are doing. There's one in particular that reads: "Your life is a precious gift from your parents. Think about them and the rest of your family. You don't have to suffer alone." Below that, it gives the number for the Crisis Hotline for Suicide Prevention. Officials have even left phone boxes where the signs are so you can call immediately for help.
No one is 100% sure as to why Aokigahara became a suicide hotspot. Japanese historians say that in the old days, poor peasants would carry the elderly or disabled people into the forest and would leave them to die because they could not contribute to society. Historians also say that samurai who failed their masters would journey into the forest to kill themselves. There's even a legend of a Buddhist monk who thought he could purify himself by starving himself. Of course, other monks followed him into the forest to do the same. All of these could be true but no one can be completely sure.
How Many Suicides Have There Been?
Since no one knows officially when the suicides began, we can only go on the documentation. In the unknown amount of years up til 1988, there have been an estimated 30 suicides every year. After '88, the rates went up and continue to rise to this day. In fact, there are so many suicides in the forest that the police don't even report them anymore in an attempt to discourage people from going into the forest to die.
In 2003, 105 bodies were found, up by 27 from 2002. By 2010, around 200 people had gone into Aokigahara to attempt suicide, 54 of which succeeded. Since then, at least 100 have succeeded in killing themselves each year.
The most common form of suicide in the forest is hanging. There are so many trees that hanging is almost too easy. The second most popular is drug overdose. Assumingly, people find themselves a comfortable place to lie, take the drugs, and go to sleep, never to wake again.
There have been reported sightings of Yurei (ghosts) in the forest. Many people believe these ghosts to be that of those people abandoned by their families in the olden days. Some believe they are the souls of the ones who committed suicide. Because of the reported sightings, it's suspected that some people don't go into the forest to die, but just to hike and the spirits cause them to lose their way and eventually starve to death or die accidentally out of insanity.
A couple journeyed into the forest, unaware of its dark history. I am unsure of their names, so for the sake of fluidity, I will call them Mike and Barbara. Note: These are not their actual names, but names I am giving them.
Mike says that, in their journey, they were almost immediately unnerved by the "ripped up pictures of families, something that looked like a suicide note nailed to a tree, and clothes." When the police come to gather the bodies each year, the belongings are left behind until they can come back to gather them. Rope was lying on the ground, which people also do to find their way out in case they change their minds. Barbara became scared and wanted to leave so she and Mike began to turn when he stepped on some bones. He freaked and took off running with Barbara. He was scared so she was scared.
Mike goes on to say: "The more we ran, the more the forest seemed to envelop us....I started freaking out some more, thinking paranoid thoughts about how we might die in the forest. We ran around desperately. I started seeing things. No straight up ghostly apparitions....but a few times I could have sworn I saw somebody standing next to a tree but when I looked back there was nothing."
They were eventually found and rescued by a monk, who Mike assumed was living in the forest in order to talk people out of suicide. When they came back out, people were shocked at their story. At first, some believed they were going to kill themselves because they had a forbidden love and would rather die together than live apart. Mike assured them that wasn't the case. But when he told the police and the gathering crowd about the monk, many in the crowd gasped, saying he was a ghost and that Mike and Barbara needed to talk to a priest.
There are many more accounts of strange happenings and sightings in the forest.For instance, a faceless doll was found nailed upside down onto a tree. A documentarian believed it to be a curse left behind by one of the suicidal people.
Another example is the fact that compasses and GPSs don't work, possibly due to the high iron deposits in the soil. Because of this, people tend to leave behind tape or rope to follow back. One woman claimed that someone - or something - cut her tape. Some say that a demon did it, attempting to purposefully lead her astray.
A third example would be the countless reports of unnatural screaming within the woods. A writer for Japan Times said he heard a scream and went searching for whoever it might be. He stumbled upon a dead man's body. He had been dead a long time and couldn't have possibly been the source. Perhaps his spirit was.
Hideo Watanabe, a shop owner in front of the forest entrance, has seen several people walk out after attempting but failing to kill themselves. One instance, he reported that a girl "had tried to hang herself and failed. She had part of the rope around her neck and her eyes were almost popping out of their sockets." He took her inside her shop and gave her tea while he called an ambulance.
Buddhist monks have even set up temples around the forest to try and fight the evil they believe inhabits the woods. They believe there are demons that lure people into the forest and purposefully cause them to get lost so they'll have no choice but to kill themselves out of either desperation or insanity. Some of the monks believe that the spirits of the suicidal people haunt the forest and are responsible for the rise in suicides within the woods.
Effects of the Forest
Local police are bothered and annoyed that what used to be a beautiful forest has been sullied by continuous suicides. Forest Walkers have it the worst out of all because they actually have to walk through the forest every year to pull the bodies out. The bodies are carried to a local station where a special room is set aside for people who have committed suicide. The workers then gamble, the loser being the one who has to sleep in the room with the bodies.
Aokigahara might have once been a wonderful destination, but now it's so full of tragedy that the beauty has been lost. It would be beyond disturbing to find a body in any case, let alone hanging from a tree or rotting in a tent. I can't imagine what each of these people have been through to warrant suicide, but to hang yourself is not a quick death. It causes me to shudder to think about it. Watch the below videos for even more information.
Which legend do you believe is more likely?
Aokigahara, The Suicide Forest, https://www.tofugu.com/japan/aokigahara
These Real Stories From the Japanese Suicide Forest Will Make You Afraid of the Woods,
Girlfriend and I Went to a Haunted Forest, Japan, wrongplanet.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=164207
Japan's Suicide Forest is Creepier and Sadder Than Any Movie, http://fusion.net/story/252500/japan-suicide-forest-sea-of-trees-aokigahara-mt-fuji/
© 2016 Nathan Jasper