Located in Koshu, Japan, Aokigahara, also known as Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees, is often referred to as “the perfect place to die” and is currently the world’s second most popular suicide destination. (Only San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is more popular.) Each year, an average of 30 to 100 people choose to end their lives among the tranquility and gorgeous scenery the forest offers, though the exact numbers go unreported as Japanese authorities make every effort to prevent it from becoming an even more popular spot for ending it all.
Over the years, the forest has developed a reputation for being haunted by numerous supernatural entities and demons. While it has previously served as the site of several Japanese horror movies, Aokigahara has only recently been introduced to other parts of the world after being the focus of the 2016 movie, The Forest. Whether you are familiar with Suicide Forest or have just recently heard about it, here are ten things you don’t know about Suicide Forest.
10. Aokigahara is eerily beautiful and quiet.
Despite its morbid reputation, Suicide Forest is a gorgeous example of nature at its very best. Situated at the base of Mt. Fuji, the forest is thick with foliage, thanks to the trees that are tightly packed together. The ground is littered with green leafy moss and vegetation that flourishes year round. Due to the densely packed trees, it is almost impossible for the wind to pass through the forest, essentially eliminating the sound of rustling leaves and falling branches. Additionally, Aokigahara is almost entirely devoid of wildlife, meaning you’ll rarely hear birds chirping, squirrels chattering, or animals running around.
9. Locals don’t come to Aokigahara to end their lives.
Despite being so close to one of the world’s top suicide destinations, it is rare for locals who are suicidal to come to the forest when trying to end their life. This goes back to their early childhood when they are taught the forest is a scary place they should avoid at all costs.
8. Visitors who haven’t committed to ending their lives enter the forest with a plan for getting out.
As the result of the densely packed vegetation and unmarked trails, it is much easier to get lost in the forest than it is to simply find your way out. This is why so many people who are contemplating suicide wrap brightly colored tape along the trees to mark their route and ensure they can find their way out. They usually bring a tent with them, as well, to protect them from the elements while trying to reach a decision. If a tent is left behind, you are almost sure to find a body if you continue to follow the tape.
7. There is a strict no-camping rule in effect.
To prevent suicides, camping is prohibited in the park, which is often patrolled by nature guards who are on the lookout for anyone who appears to be thinking about ending their life. In addition to the nature guards working to dissuade suicide, the forest includes plenty of signs encouraging visitors not to kill themselves and providing instructions on how to get help. At least once a year, the nature guards, along with volunteers, sweep the forest for bodies and carry them out.
6. Not every suicide victim is found.
Due to the thick foliage, it is almost impossible to find the body of everyone who has ended their life in Suicide Forest. Although hanging is the most frequently used suicide method in the forest, this isn’t always the case. There are also people who go in, sit down, and overdose on assorted pills. These are the bodies that often get covered over and go undiscovered for years, if not forever. There is also the chance of the occasional animal getting into the forest and destroying the body, though this is a rare occurrence.
5. Suicide Forest has mythical roots.
For centuries, Japanese myths have regarded Mount Fuji as a “gateway to heaven.” According to folklore, Fuji, the fire goddess, descended to earth and gouged deep canals of supernatural force into the mountainside, including areas of the forest. It is believed that these forces act as a magnet and prevent anyone who enters the forest from ever leaving. Additionally, it has been said that the tengu, a mythical demon who takes the form of a bird, lurks in the forest, along with the yurei, or the souls of people who died here without atoning for their sins.
4. Visitors who go into the forest simply to see the place are strongly encouraged to never leave the trails.
In addition to making it much easier to get lost, there is also a good chance of making a gruesome discovery if you venture away from the few trails into the forest. It’s entirely possible to come across suicide notes, personal belongings, including clothes, shoes, and even ID cards, and even bones lying on the ground. If you do, you certainly don’t want to look up. You may stumble across a body hanging from a tree or a forgotten noose that was left after a body was cut down.
3. Most people think a Buddhist monk was the first person to die in the forest.
According to tales that have been passed down from generation to generation, a Buddhist monk on a mission to purify himself was the forest’s first death. It is believed that he starved to death, though no one is certain whether he did it purposely or simply got lost and couldn’t find his way out. Later, other monks would go to the forest to perform purifying rituals.
2. Even the most experienced hiker can get lost in the forest.
If you plan to hike in the forest, it is important to understand that you can’t guarantee you’ll be able to find your way out, regardless of what navigational tools you take with you. Thanks to the iron deposits in the area’s volcanic soil, compasses tend to malfunction, leaving them going in circles. The same is said to be true for GPS devices. Of course, it’s almost impossible to tell with a GPS because the chances of getting a signal are essentially zero.
1. The forest is littered with tape and rope used as markers.
Of course, this only adds to the Suicide Forest’s creepiness factor. Just think, all of this tape and ropes was left by someone who very likely killed themselves. When you get to the end of the rope or tape, watch out for the body that is almost certain to be nearby.