The Aokigahara Forest sits at the base of the famous Mount Fuji. The forest grew from the soil that is rich in nutrients from the lava of Mount Fuji. The forest, at first glance, is a beautiful, lush forest sitting in the shadows of Mount Fuji, but to locals and anyone who has read about the forest, it has a dark not-so-secret secret. The forest is the number one place where suicidal people in Japan go to commit suicide. Why is such a beautiful place a popular place to commit suicide? It is difficult to say exactly, but here are nine possible reasons why.
1. At the Base of Sacred Mount Fuji
As previously mentioned, Aokigahara is at the base of Mount Fuji and Mount Fuji has a very strong cultural and spiritual presence in Japan. Mount Fuji has been regarded as sacred since people have been living around it and it was originally regarded as sacred to the aboriginal Ainu people of Japan. Some believe it is the embodiment nature spirit. Many monks go to the forest as well to pray for the spirits lost in the forest. Perhaps those who go to Aokigahara to commit suicide believe the spirituality of the mountain and prayers of the monks will protect their spirit.
2. The Forest is Thick
Aokigahara is also known as the sea of trees. The foliage is thickened with an abundance of trees and long, twisting wooden roots that interlock. The forest is so thick that it’s believed to be virtually soundless. Sound cannot push too far past the thickness of the flora. If no one can hear the sounds of the suicidal, then no one will try to stop those who have given up and already made up their mind. The trees in the forest are so thick that in some areas, light hardly reaches the ground. Perhaps if no one can see or hear you, it makes the suicidal feel less guilty about leaving the world behind.
3. The Loneliness of the Forest
The Aokigahara forest hardly has any wildlife in it. In fact, it is very rare to even hear a bird chirping in the trees. The quietness and stillness of the forest create a solemn lonely atmosphere, especially for someone who is already feeling quite alone. Furthermore, with the absence of people, it’s possible the suicidal may believe no one will be negatively affected by their spirit or deed once they have committed suicide. In some way, people who go to the Aokigahara to commit suicide are driven by the comfort of mutual loneliness and the belief that they will not sullen others.
4. A Mystery Novel
In 1960, an author named Seicho Matsumoto published a book called The Black Sea of Trees. The book features a man and a woman who walked into the Aokigahara forest and committed suicide together. Even though suicide had been happening in the forest well before Seicho Matsumoto published the novel, the suicide between these two characters is believed to be where Japan’s suicide problem spiked and brought on the infamous reputation of Aokigahara. It’s possible that the pop culture of media influenced people to commit suicide in the forest.
5. Legends of Being Left In The Forest
There are many legends throughout Japan that tell of people being left in the forest. It is believed that long ago when food was scarce families would abandon a member of the family in the forest and by doing so, there would be more food available for the family to survive. Legends tell of unwanted people, old people, and babies being left in the forest. This may have influenced suicidal people to think that they are a burden and being as they are a burden, they should go into the Aokigahara forest to lessen the burden that they cause their family.
6. A Suicide Manual
First published on July 4th, 1993 by Wataru Tsurumi, The Complete Manual of Suicide became a best seller in Japan and it raised a great deal of controversy. The book talked about 11 ways to commit suicide and how to do it successfully in great detail. It did not encourage nor discourage suicide; however, it described some methods to be more lethal or pleasant than others. The book described hanging “as a work of art” and it acknowledged Aokigahara as the best place to commit suicide. The book even went as far as to explain how to find the best spots in the forest to commit suicide. This book was found near many discovered bodies.
7. Navigation Technology Doesn’t Work
Legend has it that the Yurei, or angry spirits, are trapped in the Aokigahara forest. It’s believed that they and the forest saturated with the spirits of those who took their lives move about from tree to tree and try to keep anyone who enters the forest from leaving. This belief may stem from the idea that compasses and other navigational devices don’t work in the forest due to an abundance of iron beneath the forest floor. The iron throws the devices out of wack rendering them useless. This means perhaps people won’t come in looking for those who want to commit suicide.
8. The History: Of Suicide in Japan and of Aokigahara
Suicide is by far not something that is new to Japan or Japanese culture. Born to a strict code of honor, it was quite normal for people, especially men in the warrior class, to take their own life after gravely failing at an important task or when falling at the hands of an enemy. The practice was called seppuku. It was a way of taking responsibility and asking for forgiveness. The idea of taking responsibility and asking for forgiveness along with Aokigahara’s history as a suicide area may drive people to the forest to take their life.
9. The Desire to Disappear
With the everyday pressures of school, of work, of social pressures and other things, and with no real outlet to talk about them, life can sometimes be a bit too much to bear on one’s own. Sometimes people may feel as if they are more of a burden to their friends or even more heavily, to their family. Dealing with everything at once can be so overwhelming that suicidal people may want everything to stand still. Rather than deal with societal pressures, perhaps suicidal people would rather just disappear and be forgotten in the soundless, lightless, and virtually lifeless Sea of Trees.
From the atmosphere to the history and legends to the influences of pop media, these are only possibilities as to why Aokigahara is the most popular place in Japan and second most popular in the world to commit suicide. No one can really pinpoint the reason for sure, but speculating may eventually lead to an answer. An answer may help prevent suicide attempts in the future.
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