aokigahara

If the above photo looks a little somber, it should. This is Aokigahara Forest in Japan, in Yamanashi Prefecture, in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. The trees are very dense and little wind moves inside the forest. Almost no animals live there. Thus, it’s known for being unusually quiet. It’s also known for another grisly reason: hundreds of people have died here, almost all by suicide.

The “Suicide Forest” first became a haven for Japanese businessmen, frustrated by professional setbacks or suffering personal crises, to end their lives in the 1950s. Most die by hanging themselves or ingesting poison. The rate of suicides have fluctuated over the years, spiking to a high of 108 in 2004. Local authorities in Yamanashi have tried everything they can think of to stop the flood of suicides, from ceasing to publicize statistics to posting anti-suicide slogans on signs in various places in the forest. Nothing seems to work. Aokigahara’s grim reputation attracts even more curious onlookers, who go into the forest hoping to find decomposing remains–which happens pretty frequently.

This article from Atlas Obscura includes some photos of the dead–if you’re into that sort of thing–as well as some of the anti-suicide signs and a few more pastoral, but still vaguely foreboding, visions of the forest.

I certainly do not, by posting this article, intend to glamorize suicide in any way. (My best friend died of suicide in 2000, so I’m well aware of what it can do to people and families). Far from being glamorous, I think Aokigahara is a horrifying place, but it’s worth thinking about.

Even without the suicides Aokigahara is a strange and forbidding place. It’s said you can’t find your way in the forest with a compass because the volcanic soil is full of iron that throws off the readings. It sort of reminds me of the “endless forest” depicted in the movie The Blair Witch Project.

Creepy stuff.

The photo at the top of this article is by Flickr user “ajari,” licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution) license.