The Mt Fuji area has some of the most beautiful sights in Japan. Images you will treasure for the rest of your life. Aokigahara Forest is another these places that you are sure to remember for the beauty, but also the eeriness that lingers through the area. When I first visited the forest, without even knowing of its history I found myself quoting the famous Jake Heke from Once Were Warriors with “This place gives me the creeps”.
Aokigahara is to the right of the photo
After doing some research and watching Vices documentary, I soon understood why I had such an unpleasant feeling like when I saw this abandoned theme park in the same area many years ago. Aokigahara Jukai is known as the Suicide Forest, each year over 100 bodies are found with many yet to be recovered. This makes it Japan’s most popular place and the world’s second most popular (after the San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge) place to end your life.
At the beginning of the track you will see signs in Japanese and English asking you to reconsider your actions if you have come here to call it quits. You will also observe that there is a strange lack of noise with no birds or animals choosing the live in the area. Walking further in you will then you will see how dense the forest is, which allows limited sunlight into the area making a misty haze that is just like the Carcosa in True Detective . As you get deeper into the track you will then notice your compass cannot work properly with the pin jumping around unable to get a correct bearing. That is actually one thing that can be explained with the rich deposits of magnetic iron in the volcanic soil, still though it adds to the suspense to the place.
At the start of spring, there are major sweeps done through the forest to clear out belongings, rubbish and bodies for the upcoming holiday season, so if you decide to go in autumn you are often in for some creepy sights. Tape and ribbon has been put down by the lost souls who are looking to maybe change their minds and find their way out. There are often shoes and pieces of clothing just sitting there in the forest and in the car park you will see cars that look to be abandoned.
I personally haven’t seen any gruesome things, but a friend has stumbled on a tent then in the distance seen a person hanging from a branch. They said the image still haunts them today. My question to them was why did you go into that forest in the first place? No response….
Many Japanese believe there are demons who live in the forest after being abandoned by their family for being burdens to the Household, a term in Japanese called Ubasute (Don’t go using that word too much as it upsets people). The ghosts of the abandoned have become resentful due to their fate and entice the weak into the forest to end their lives joining them to slither around in the ‘Sea of Trees’. Other people believe that once they die in the forest they will be able to rise up to Mt Fuji, stripping away their problems to create harmony for themselves while overlooking Japan and watching over their family.
A good friend who lives close to the area said you can put all the visitors to Aokigahara into 3 groups, Trekkers who want to see impressive views of Mt Fuji, Thrill Seekers who want to see appalling things and those who are not keen on continuing to live.
You can find the forest close to Saiko, just remember even though the landscape is stunning Aokigahara is not the most ideal place to take your kids for a nature hike.