It’s considered one of the most haunted and eerie places in Japan. Thousands of people have gotten lost or died in this forest. But that’s all the more reason to go... just bring a buddy! In this post, we take a look at Aokigahara (青木ヶ原).
Aokigahara is a vast and dense forest at the base of the famous Mount Fuji. It’s commonly called the suicide forest and has had a reputation as a spooky and unnatural place for hundreds of years. From the moment you walk into the forest, you can tell that something is a bit off. The trees are mangled, there are jagged rocks jutting out of the ground, it’s dark even during the day, and for some reason eerily calm. The forest is lush, but oddly you never see any animals or even hear birds chirping.
This is not your typical happy, Disney fairytale forest. Aokigahara is a sea of twisted moss-covered trees. It's pocketed with over 200 ice caves. And you'll bump into the occasional abandoned belongings of a missing person.
So what makes this place so creepy?
The first part has to do with the unique topography. As mentioned earlier, Aokigahara is at the base of the famous volcano, Mount Fuji. Past eruptions have created a rich layer of soil for the forest to thrive off of. But at the same time, the volcanic rocks and magma have hardened the soil so the tree roots can’t penetrate the ground, causing them to twist and turn above ground.
Also, since the area is volcanically active, there are many magma chambers and over 200 caves. Many of these caves are even covered with ice all year around.
But what gave the forest its reputation as the “suicide forest”?
Locals have avoided the forest for hundreds of years. Not only is the forest visually creepy, the twisted tree-line makes it nearly impossible for you to find your way back if you get lost. To make matters worse, the heavy iron content in the ground disrupts compasses. In the past, many travelers have gotten lost in the forest, never to be seen again.
Hundreds of years ago, some families even sacrificed their family members in the forest. They would leave family members stranded in the forest when they fell on tough times and couldn’t feed them, or if the family member got sick.
More recently, a novel published by Seicho Matsumoto in 1960 called “Kuroi Kaiji” or “Black Sea Trees” popularized the forest. In the story’s ending, two lovers commit suicide together in the forest. Similarly, another bestseller called “The Complete Suicide Manual” describes Aokigahara as the best place to commit suicide. These, along with other pop culture references and socio-economic situations have made Aokigahara a hotspot for suicides.
Aokigahara is even featured in the upcoming movie "The Forest" featuring Natalie Dormer from "The Game of Thrones" and "The Hunger Games".
To make matters worse, in Japanese culture, it is said that people who are not properly buried, wander the area forever as tormented spirits. Some even believe that the forest itself is cursed by the souls of all those who have died in the forest and refuse to even step foot in the area.
Ever year, it’s estimated that over 300 people try to commit suicide in the forest (mostly through hanging). And every year, local authorities discover over 100 bodies. It’s not uncommon for you to stumble upon an abandoned camp or vehicle, discarded personal items, or even ropes used for the hanging. Because of this, there are signs all over the forest urging people to reconsider their decision, think of their families, and seek help.
A sign telling people to reconsider their decision and seek help.
Human bones found in the forest
All of this probably makes you never want to set foot in this forest. But, by hiking along the well-maintained paths, you instantly appreciate just how unique and beautiful the forest actually is. There’s really no place on earth that looks like this forest. The lush green flora and peaceful silence is an incredible atmosphere.
There are even numerous caves that you can actually go into. The three most famous ones are the Fugaku Wind Cave, Narusawa Ice Cave, and the Saiko Bat Cave.
Venturing off the trail, you get a wholly different and more unnerving experience. The beauty is actually more pronounced once you take the less traveled paths, but the trees become denser and more twisted. The rocks and vegetation make it more difficult to progress. And you run into the occasional discarded items and even human bones.
So, would you visit this forest? Leave us a comment if you are brave enough to stroll through this forest. But, if you do visit Aokigahara, be sure to make it out before it gets dark! Because that's when...
Mangled trees in the forest
Abandoned items from a long-gone person in Aokigahara
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