Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Japan’s Suicide Forest

“You think you die alone but that is not true…”

                                                                        --Azusa Hayano

Aokigahara is a 14 square mile forest located at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan. It is an eerily quiet forest for there is minimal wildlife. The forest floor sits on volcanic rock and its nickname is Jukai, which means “Sea of Trees” because the growth is so dense. 

This forest has a historic association with demons and is considered one of the world’s most haunted spots.

In the 19th century Aokigahara, was a location used for the practice of ubasute. This practice was when during periods of long drought or famine families would take elder members of their family to an isolated area--in this case Aokigahara-- and leave them to die. 

Some state this practice was just a myth others state it is because of this practice that the Aokigahara forest is haunted by Yurels, which are the angry spirits of the old people left there to die.

Many who enter Jukai get the sense that someone is watching them. Others get such an overpowering sense of oppression that they leave as soon as possible. Hikers and campers have heard footsteps follow them when they are the only ones in the area or on the trail headed toward Mount Fuji. 

Locals don’t go near Jukai because as children they are told it is a “scary forest.”

Regardless of whether this myth is believed or not, Aokigahara is still considered haunted and for a much more modern reason. 

Since the late 1970s Aokigahara sadly has become Japan’s most popular spot to commit suicide. Today over 100 people walk into this forest each year and take their  lives. This forest is so dense that some who have changed their minds and tried to get back to the main trail have gotten lost and died.

The proverbial yellow tape that is used to cordon off areas where people have camped and then killed themselves always strikes journalists who have visited this forest. 

Signs are posted everywhere both in English and Japanese in an effort to change people’s minds. Abandoned cars are often found in the parking lot near the trail. 

There are so many suicides that Yukuza * pays homeless people to sneak into the Aokigahara forest in order to rob the corpses of their possessions.

* Yakuza is an organized crime syndicate that operates in Japan and internationally.

Here  a video of a tour given of the Jukai suicide sites by a Japanese geologist, Azusa Hayano who studies volcanos. He has found over 100 suicide corpses. Warning-- there are some graphic pictures of these suicides shown in this video.

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