Tokyo, for the most part, lives in the next century. However, the haunted suicide forest Aokigahara tells so many urban legends among locals that it’s clear: the Japanese are just as messed up as the rest of the world.
While Tokyo is preparing for the upcoming Olympic Games, we are looking into the forest of death or the suicide forest. Let’s get one thing straight: we are not here to glorify suicide. We want to bring up facts and legends. Because those same legends are among the reasons this place is considered hunted and the most famous suicide spot in the world.
Are Japanese that suicidal? Yes, sadly, the government is trying to do more each year to help the victims. However, Seppuku, a samurai’s ritual suicide, thought to be honorable—dates back to Japan’s feudal era. It’s no longer the case, but it left the mark. Just like other, much happier traditions all over Japan.
Back in the 60s, Seichō Matsumoto wrote novel Kuroi Jukai, in which a heartbroken lover retreats to the Sea of Trees to end her life. It is later described as a perfect place to die. The Aokigahara forest is majestic and thick. If you get lost, you won’t be able to call for help. And for a person so desperate, it seems perfect. There is almost no wildlife, no noise. Just trees and branches. Precisely what the suicidal person doesn’t need. Nor did we need that movie The Forest.
Yurei and Ubasute – the Japanese folklore
Locals believe the ghosts (yurei) are what keep dragging people into death. According to legends, the spirits of those abandoned by ubasute and the mournful spirits of the suicidal linger in the woods. Ubasute are thought to be older women, left to die during the famine. This is a national folklore, and the whole story is deeply disturbing and haunting. It’s like euthanasia; only people were left to die from dehydration and starvation. What makes it even worse is that their families made these decisions. If so, yurei have all the rights to be mad.
At some point, the police stopped releasing information on self-inflicted deaths in Aokigahara. It was an attempt to make the spot less popular. Yet, that didn’t happen, which is why the government is trying to break the mental health stigma.
Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park
As if the legends weren’t enough, people tried to make Gulliver’s Kingdom theme park near the forest. It’s now closed, but giant Lemuel Gulliver lies on the ground, all tied up. The park lasted from 1997 to 2001, and it wasn’t a popular place. No need to ask why, but it adds to the creepiness of the area.
Tourists love to visit the suicide forest in Japan. It gives beautiful views of Mount Fuji, and it’s full of 300-year-old trees, and the mesmerizing Narusawa Ice Cave. Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 will bring even more people, so the spell, or the curse, might get broken. If there is one that is.
The Sad Truth
In reality, this Japanese forest is a reflection of modern society. Most suicides happen in March. It is the end of the fiscal year, and people with money troubles, simply want to end it all. The Suicide Forest today has patrols and inspirational signs. What really haunts most people are money and family troubles as well as mental health issues. Maybe the only things that haunt us are the price of living the modern life and trying to be everything, at all times. We don’t need one international suicide prevention day. We need 365 of them.