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“The Suicide Forest”- How Aokigahara Earned its Nickname

Aokigahara Forest is a popular tourist destination in Japan, but it has another tragic reputation.

  • Located near Mount Fuji, Aokigahara Forest is home to diverse flora and fauna
  • It is a popular tourist destination among hikers and people interested in the macabre
  • Aside from being known as the “Sea of Trees”, it is also notoriously known as the “Suicide Forest”

Japan is known for its advanced technology, anime, manga, cultural treasures, and of course, Mt. Fuji. But did you know that close to this iconic spot is another popular place, but for spooky reasons?

Enter Aokigahara Forest – a dense forest nestled near the northwestern base of Mount Fuji. Also known as the Sea of Trees, it is a popular tourist destination due to the abundance of caves in the area and its rich flora and fauna. Despite its beauty, it holds a tragic reputation.

The beautiful flora of Aokigahara thrives on a hardened lava forest floor.
Photo source: Atlas Obscura

Aside from being known as the “Sea of Trees”, Aokigahara is also unfortunately known as the “Suicide Forest” due to it being a common site for suicide. Legend has it that the forest was also a site for ubasute, or the practice of taking elderly or sick relatives to a remote location and leaving them there to die.

Today, locals say they can spot three types of visitors to the area: those who are interested in trekking and seeing the beautiful scenery; those who are interested in the macabre and want to catch a glimpse of it; and those who have no plans of leaving. In 2010, 247 cases of suicide attempts inside the forest were recorded by the authorities, 54 of which completed the act.

Because Aokigahara is vast and dense, visitors whose purpose is to end their lives are unlikely to come across anyone who can prevent them from attempting suicide. To address this, authorities have put up signs throughout the forest discouraging people from attempting suicide. These signs have inspirational messages such as ” Your life is a precious gift from your parents,” and “Please consult the police before you decide to die!”, accompanied by suicide prevention hotlines.

The forest is filled with signs, especially on discouraging people from attempting suicide.
Photo source: New York Times

Despite the government’s efforts to curb the suicides in Aokigahara, some still occur. If the bodies are found and reported, workers must bring the remains back to and keep it at the police station, for it is believed to bring bad luck to the spirit of the deceased should the body be left alone.

In 2018, Aokigahara gained international attention again after a famous Youtuber uploaded a video that showed the body of a suicide victim inside the forest. If you plan to visit the forest for its beauty but stumble upon the mortal remains of a lost soul, please be respectful and contact local authorities.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, online help is available to anyone in distress. These hotlines are available 24/7.

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