World Paranormal Day- Aokigahara Forest, Japan
Aokigahara Forest, sometimes called the haunted forest or the suicide forest, is located in a shadow. The shadow of Mt. Fuji, to be more precise. As in any forest, you will also be in the shadows, cast by the conifer and broad leaf trees. Locals call it Jukai which translates into “sea of trees”. The canopy is so dense, once inside you won’t be able to see the sun, again, you’re among the shadows.
Having never been to this forest (or Japan, or Asia) I can only write about others’ experiences and the (fictionalized) accounts I’ve seen in the movies The Forest and Sea of Trees, the first a thriller/horror movie, the second more of a thriller, drama style movie. I have also watched several documentaries about Aokigahara. All of these depictions show the same thing- a vast forest of trees, devoid of sound and animals, almost a vacuum. The living can tour it, and it is highly recommended they go with a local guide and NEVER stray from the path. Cables, strings, flags, and other homemade devices are seen among the trees- more permanent path markers than Hansel and Gretel used, but this is no fairy tale. Compasses don’t work here; scientists believe it’s the iron in the soil. Trees grow in multiple directions, their branches entangling each other, making it impossible to distinguish where one tree begins and another ends. But why is it haunted?
Some legends say the first accounts of paranormal activity began in Aokigahara after ubaste took place there. Ubaste is the Japanese folklore or legend, that elderly family members were taken to the forest to starve to death, during periods of great famine in Japan, or when a family had no other choice, and could not afford the care of their elderly relatives. The Japanese people believe that Aokigahara is haunted by the Yurei, or ghosts, of these poor abandoned people.
Aokigahara is often referred to as” the suicide forest” due to the high number of people that have taken their own lives there (105 documented suicides since 2003, but Japan refuses to publish anymore suicide data). Unofficially, the number of suicides that have taken place are over 500, as of 2021. Many believe that those are only the accounted for and found bodies. Many people have gone to visit the forest and never been found, presumed to be dead, but not making the official unofficial count.
Why? Why is Aokigahara Forest such a desirable place for those ending their life? Is it the call of the Yurei? The thought of not being alone in the afterlife? To begin with, suicide in Japan is viewed very differently than most cultures. Honorable suicide, or Seppuku, has long been a recognized Japanese custom. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates among first world nations, as they promote a heavily unbalanced work and sacrificial life. Many workers find themselves working to beyond exhaustion and burn out and see suicide as their only way out- a way to release their family financially and remain honorable. Traditionally, Asian cultures don’t recognize mental health symptoms (expressing them as physical symptoms) and do not promote therapy. Survivors of suicide attempts at Aokigahara have spoken of a powerful force, drawing them into the forest, then confusing them, both in direction and “mentally”. Many reported they chose the forest so that they couldn’t be found, but also so they would be amongst the others that had suffered and died before them.
The draw to Aokigahara can not only be attributed to the paranormal. In Kuroi Jukai a novel by Seicho Matsumo, the forest is described as “the perfect place to die”. After it’s publication in 1960, visits to Aokigahara sharply rose. In addition to Matsumo’s novel, several songs in Japanese culture have romanticized the idea of taking one’s life in Aokigahara.
Signs in several languages have been placed at entrances to the forest (which are also monitored via cameras by the Japanese version of Forest Rangers). These signs read things like “Things will get better”, “You are a gift to your family”, and “Please reconsider”. Volunteers routinely roam the paths of the forest, to dissuade any would be attempts by people they meet in the forest. Aokigahara is the second most popular site for suicides in the world, the first being the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sources: Welcome to Aokigahara – The Scary Haunted Forest in Japan (itsyourjapan.com)
Inside Aokigahara, The Haunting ‘Suicide Forest’ Of Japan (allthatsinteresting.com)
Listening to: The Forest (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) on Spotify
If you or someone you know is thinking about harming themselves or committing suicide, please dial 988 in the US, or text “home” to 741741
In the UK please dial 0800 689 5652 or 0800 58 58 58.
In Japan, please dial 03-6634-2556
International Suicide Hotlines – OpenCounseling : OpenCounseling
- Posted in: International ♦ Paranormal
- Tagged: Aokigahara, haunted forest, International, Japan, Paranormal, Paranormal Day, suicide forest, world paranormal day