I’m sure that You have heard about the Aokigahara forest, The ‘Sea of Trees’ which is situated on the base of Mt. Fuji, approximately two hours driving time west-southwest from Tokyo, Japan. This forest is known as the forest ‘Where people come to die.’ It sounds sad and brutal. This forest is the World’s most popular place where people commit suicide after the Golden Gate Bridge.
Annually about 70 corpses are found by volunteers who clean the woods but many are forever lost in the very thick woods. Japanese authorities discounted publishing exact suicide numbers in order to not make the place even more popular. It has been home to over 500 confirmed suicides since the 1950s. In 2004, 108 people killed themselves in the forest and in 2010, 247 people attempted suicide, 54 of whom succeeded. But that’s just the number they found and reported. Who knows how many more there are that just go undiscovered?
Legend says that this all started after Seicho Matsumoto published a novel by the name of Kuroi Kaiju (Black Sea of Trees) in 1960. The story ends with two lovers committing suicide in the forest, so many people believe that’s what started it all. However, the history of suicide in Aokigahara predates the novel, and the place has long been associated with death. Hundreds upon hundreds of Japanese people have hanged themselves from the trees of Aokigahara forest.
Wataru Tsurumui’s controversial 1993 bestseller, The Complete Suicide Manual, is a book that describes various modes of suicide and even recommends Aokigahara as the perfect place to die. Apparently this book is also a common find in the forest, usually not too far away from a suicide victim and their belongings. Undoubtedly, the most common method of suicide in the forest is hanging.
But why this forest?
In the ancient times families would abandon people in the forest during periods of famine when there was not enough food to go around. By sacrificing family members to the forest, there would be less mouths to feed and therefore enough food for the rest of the family. Those abandoned in the forest would die long, horrible, drawn out deaths due to starvation. Because of that, Aokigahara is also said to be haunted by the souls of these abandoned people.
According to traditional Japanese beliefs, all humans have a spirit or soul called a ‘reikon’. When a person dies, the reikon leaves the body and enters a form of purgatory, where it waits for the proper funeral and post-funeral rites to be performed, so that it may join its ancestors. If this is done correctly, the reikon is believed to be a protector of the living family and to return yearly in August during the Obon Festival to receive thanks. It is believed that if the corpse is left alone, it is very bad luck for the yürei (ghost) of the suicide victims. Their spirits are said to scream through the night, and their bodies will move on their own. However, if the person dies in a sudden or violent manner such as murder or suicide, if the proper rites have not been performed, or if they are influenced by powerful emotions such as a desire for revenge, love, jealousy, hatred or sorrow, the reikon is thought to transform into a yūrei, which can then bridge the gap back to the physical world.
The yūrei then exists on Earth until it can be laid to rest, either by performing the missing rituals, or resolving the emotional conflict that still ties it to the physical plane. If the rituals are not completed or the conflict left unresolved, the yūrei will persist in its haunting.
White clothing, black hair, the yūrei’s hands dangle lifelessly from the wrists, which are held outstretched with the elbows near the body. They typically lack legs and feet, floating in the air.
(That’s why the lady in ‘The Ring’ movie is dressed up in white dress and has got long black hair and pale skin.)
Thank you for reading this meta-analysis about the Aokigahara forest. 🙂
3. Wikipedia 🙂