Aokigahara: The perfect place to die
“Please consult the police before you decide to die!”
Aokigahara (青木ヶ原), also known as the Sea of Trees (樹海 Jukai), is a 35 km2 forest that lies at the north west base of Mount Fuji in Japan.
The forest contains a number of rocky, icy caverns, a few of which are popular tourist destinations.
The forest, which has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology, is a popular place for suicides; in 2002, 78 bodies were found, despite numerous signs, in Japanese and English, urging people to reconsider their actions.
Due to the wind-blocking density of the trees, and an absence of wildlife, the forest is known for being eerily quiet.
The high rate of suicide has led officials to place signs in the forest, in Japanese and English, urging those who have gone there in order to commit suicide to seek help and not kill themselves.
“Life is a precious thing! Please reconsider!”
“Think of your family!”
Their handy guide is Wataru Tsurumui‘s bestselling book The Complete Manual of Suicide.
However, even in these haunted woods, regular humans still have a job to do. Forestry workers rotate in and out of shifts at a station building in Aokigahara, and occasionally they will come upon unfortunate bodies in various states of decomposition, usually hanging from trees or partially eaten by animals.
The bodies are brought down to the station, where a spare room is kept especially for such occasions.
In this room are two beds: one for the corpse and one for someone to sleep next to it. Yup, you read that correctly.
It is thought that if the corpse is left alone, the lonely and unsettled yurei will scream the whole night through, and the body will move itself into the regular sleeping quarters.
In inimitable style, the workers jan-ken to see who gets to sleep with the body.
And you thought your job was rough.
By the way, if an entire dark forest full of hanged corpses wasn’t bad enough, a few years ago some people noticed that a lot of the dead in Aokigahara probably had cash or jewelry on them. Thus began the proud Japanese tradition of Aokigahara Scavenging where people are running around the Death Forest, looking for dead guys to loot.
Taro, a 46-year-old man fired from his job at an iron manufacturing company, hoped to fade into the blackness. “My will to live disappeared,” said Taro. “I’d lost my identity, so I didn’t want to live on this earth. That’s why I went there.”
Taro, who did not want to be identified fully, was swimming in debt and had been evicted from his company apartment.
He lost financial control, which he believes to be the foundation of any stable life, he said. “You need money to survive. If you have a girlfriend, you need money. If you want to get married, you need it for your life. Money is always necessary for your life.”
The Japanese government said suicide rates are a priority and pledged to cut the number of suicides by more than 20 percent by 2016. It plans to improve suicide awareness in schools and workplaces. But officials fear the toll will rise with unemployment and bankruptcies, matching suicide spikes in earlier tough economic times.