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Aokigahara is seen in the lower left corner of this image

Aokigahara (青木ヶ原?), also known as the Sea of Trees (樹海 Jukai?), is a 35 km2 forest that lies at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The forest contains a number of rocky, icy caverns, a few of which are popular tourist destinations.

The forest, which has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology, is a popular place for suicides; in 2002, 78 bodies were found, despite numerous signs, in Japanese and English, urging people to reconsider their actions.[1]

Due to the wind-blocking density of the trees, and an absence of wildlife, the forest is known for being eerily quiet.[2]

Contents

Geography

The forest floor consists primarily of volcanic rock and is difficult to penetrate with hand tools such as picks or shovels. There are also a variety of unofficial trails that are used semi-regularly for the annual "body hunt" done by local volunteers, who mark their search areas with plastic tape. The plastic tape is never removed, so a great deal of it litters the first kilometer of the forest, past the designated trails leading to tourist attractions such as the Ice Cave and Wind Cave. After the first kilometer into Aokigahara towards Mount Fuji, the forest is in a much more pristine state, with little to no litter and few obvious signs of human contact.

Visitors and suicides

The forest is a popular place for suicides, reportedly the world's second most popular suicide location after San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.[3][4] This popularity is often attributed to the 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai by Seichō Matsumoto, which ends with two lovers committing suicide in the forest. However, the history of suicide in Aokigahara dates from before the novel's publication, and the place has long been associated with death: ubasute was practiced there into the 19th century, and the forest is reputedly haunted by the ghosts of those left to die.[5]

Since the 1950s, more than 500 people have lost their lives in the forest, mostly suicides,[4] with an average of approximately 30 counted yearly.[6] In 2002, 78 bodies were found within the forest, replacing the previous record of 73 in 1998.[7] In 2003 the rate climbed to 100, and in recent years the local government has stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to downplay Aokigahara's association with suicide.[8] The high rate of suicide has led officials to place signs in the forest, in Japanese and English, urging those who have gone there in order to commit suicide to seek help and not kill themselves. The annual body search, consisting of a small army of police, volunteers and attendant journalists, began in 1970.[9]

Aside from those intending to die there, the dense forest and rugged inaccessibility has attracted thrill seekers. Many of these hikers mark their routes by leaving colored plastic tapes behind, causing concerns from prefectural officials for the ecosystem of the forest.[10]

In 2004, a movie about the forest was released, called Jyukai — The Sea of Trees Behind Mt. Fuji (樹の海 lit. Sea of Trees?), by the director Takimoto Tomoyuki. It tells the story of four people who decide to end their lives in the forest of Aokigahara. While scouting for shooting locations, Takimoto told reporters that he found a wallet containing 370,000 yen (roughly $3,760 USD), giving rise to the popular rumor that Aokigahara is a treasure trove for scavengers.[11] Others have claimed to have found credit cards, rail passes, and driver's licenses.

In 2008, Joshua Gates and his team from the Syfy television show, Destination Truth, went to Aokigahara to look for ghosts. During their visit their compass malfunctioned due to the volcanic rock nearby. They captured an apparition on film and in a different area they recorded an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) saying "Get out" next to 3 different piles of ripped up papers & photos which are thought to be from the wallet of a suicidal person. They also found an abandoned campsite with a machetee, food & materials for making a fire which was thought to be used by a suicidal person. Joshua Gates, the show's host, also believes he saw a man appear then disappear.[citation needed]

See also

References

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ http://www.seekjapan.jp/article-1/767/The+Suicide+Woods+of+Mt.+Fuji
  3. ^ Meaney, Thomas. "Exiting Early: Is life worth living? The question is perennial. The answers include 'no'", The Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2006. Accessed November 14, 2009. "In a roundabout way of coming to terms with his death, Mr. Hunt made several trips to the cliffs of Beachy Head on the southern coast of England, which ranks as the third most popular suicide site in the world, after the Golden Gate Bridge and the Aokigahara Woods in Japan."
  4. ^ a b Amazeen, Sandy. "Book Review: Cliffs of Despair A Journey to Suicide's Edge," Monsters & Critics.December 21, 2005
  5. ^ Studio 360:Suicide Forest. Studio 360 in Japan (Radio Program). January 08, 2010. Accessed: February 11, 2010.
  6. ^ Hadfield, Peter. "Japan struggles with soaring death toll in Suicide Forest," The Telegraph (London). June 16, 2001.
  7. ^ "'Suicide forest' yields 78 corpses". Japan Times. 2003-02-07. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/member/member.html?nn20030207b1.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  8. ^ Studio 360:Suicide Forest. Studio 360 in Japan (Radio Program). January 08, 2010. Accessed: February 11, 2010.
  9. ^ "Japan's harvest of death". The Independent. 2000-10-24. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/japans-harvest-of-death-635356.html. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  10. ^ "Intruders tangle 'suicide forest' with tape". Asahi Shimbun. 2008-05-03. http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200805020328.html. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  11. ^ "Scavengers unearth bountiful booty at Mount Fuji's suicide forest". Mainichi Shimbun. 2005-10-26. http://mdn.mainichi.jp/culture/waiwai/archive/news/2005/10/20051026p2g00m0dm027000c.html. Retrieved 2005-10-26. 

External links

Coordinates: 35°28′12″N 138°37′11″E / 35.47°N 138.61972°E / 35.47; 138.61972

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