A Short History of Japan's Suicide Forest

Trigger warning: This article contains mention to suicide.

If anyone has seen the horror movie The Forest you may be well-versed in the general idea of Japan's infamous Suicide Forest - or the Sea of Trees as it is referred to - but you may not know much else about the haunting location. Japan is well known for it's dark and disturbing, it's beauty and culture, and there is just something about this forest that drags you in.

The Suicide Forest is specifically named Aokigahara and is located on the northwest flank of the famous Fuji Mountain and covers 30 square kilometers of hardened lava that has flowed from Mount Fuji in the year 864 AD. It is a dark and dense forest, which has added to the reputation of being home to the Yurei; ghosts of the dead. It is one of the most popular sites to commit suicide, and there are even many signs urging suicidal visitors to contact suicide prevention associations instead of entering the forest.

The site's popularity is somewhat of a romantic notion, having been attributed to Seicho Matsumoto's 1961 novel called Nami no Tao (or translated to Tower of Waves) in which a round romantic couple committed suicide together in a Romeo and Juliet type fashion. However, the history of suicide predates the novels publication as it was historically a place that the Japanese communities would commit ubasute, where sick and elderly women were dumped to die. And as early as the 1950s, tourists were reporting encountering decomposing bodies throughout Aokigahara, which seems to be a common site in this forest nowadays.

In 2002 78 bodies were found in the forest, but by 2003 the number had jumped to 105. In 2010, the police recorded more than 200 people attempting suicide in the forest and that 54 of those incidences were successful. In recent years, police have stopped publicising the number of deaths in the area, in order to decrease Aokigahar's association with suicide, albeit unsuccessfully.

Not all who wonder into Aokigahara are lost though. Many suicidal people type tape and string to trees behind them as they walk into the forest to assist with finding their way out again should they change their minds. What is left behind is not only a beautifully sad path, but you can also quietly stumble across reminders of other past tragedies, including moss-covered shoes, photographs, notes, ripped clothing, briefcases, bottles of bleach and final momentos for people to hold onto. There is also a very strong likelihood of finding human remains, skeletal pieces, and even a few nooses hanging from trees - one resident claiming to have found 36 bodies in the space of 37 days.

This beautiful forest has has a deep and dark side to it, and sees more suicides than other location in the world other than San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. It's monsterous nature will bring you and it is highly reccomended not to be visited if you have suicidal thoughsts of your own as the forest tends to play with your mind.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, please contact a prevention hotline like Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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