The city of Koshu is a popular Japanese city known for its wine making that rests at the bottom of Mount Fuji. Koshu is also the site of the Aokigahara Forest. In itself, the forest isn’t anything unusual. Like any other forest, it has trees and animals.
However, Japanese citizens call this location the Forest of Death. It’s also referred to as a beautiful place to die. The Aokigahara Forest is the second most common place for people to commit suicide. The most common suicide location is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Annually, people wander into the forest and never leave. I have read that older people with major health issues go into the forest to end their suffering. It’s also a popular place for tourists who enjoy hiking. But if you visit, it wouldn’t be unusual to stumble upon a corpse.
The Aokigahara Forest also has a reputation for being haunted. Allegedly, screams can be heard from within the woods.
One of the contributing reasons for suicide in the forest is from a fictional book titled Kuroi Jukai, which was released more than fifty years ago. The novel is about a young couple who commits suicide in the forest. It’s believed that some people have used the novel to romanticize suicide in the forest. But people have ended their lives in the forest before the novel and continue doing so today.
In 2002, nearly 80 bodies were discovered in the forest. A year later, over 100 bodies were recovered. Annually, workers recover 70 bodies from the forest. Japan no longer reveals the number of suicides to avoid giving the forest any extra notoriety. Japanese officials have also posted signs asking people not to take their own lives. Of course the signs go unheeded.
Apparently, the forest is so dense that it can be easy to lose your bearings. And if you do get lost, your cell phone or compass won’t be of any use because of the magnetic iron deposits found throughout the forest. I had read about a visitor who said he used a rope to mark a trail to avoid getting lost. He also said there was a path that will get you through safely, but it’s still possible to get separated from the path.
So why does anyone risk their life exploring this forest? I have no idea. But then why do people wrestle with alligators or jump from perfectly good airplanes? Probably because they can. Another aspect about the forest I found disturbing is a ritual performed by workers who remove the bodies.
In Japanese culture, it’s believed the bodies of those who commit suicide aren’t supposed to be alone. So someone has to spend a night with the corpse because it could bring spiritual bad luck to the person who committed suicide. That makes sense. Even considering that the body has probably already spent time alone in the forest. But then we all have our superstitions and spiritual beliefs.
Also, there is a fictional movie called The Forest. It came out two years ago. It’s about a woman who receives a call from Japan about her sister who wandered into the forest and disappeared. She then travels to the Aokigahara Forest to find out what happened to her missing sister. It’s a good location for a horror movie. It has everything from a dense forest to dead people.
After reading about this strange forest, you are probably now booking a flight to Japan. Sorry, I have no interest in hiking through a forest known for its suicides. It sounds like a horror movie just waiting to happen.
Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page Life with Grandpa and he also just wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on Amazon.com.