In the interior of Japan, more specifically in Yamanashi Prefecture and located at the base of the emblematic Mount Fuji, a forest full of large trees and covered with lush vegetation is located. This is possibly the reason why the place is known locally as the “Sea of Trees”. Away from the hustle and bustle of the great Japanese cities, the place remains quite respected and intact. Trash is non-existent in an area full of rocky and cold caverns. There is hardly any wildlife, and people who travel here do not usually go beyond the first meters of the dark forest.
Nevertheless, this place has a dark secret. For a thousand years there are poems that speak of this forest as a demonized place. Reasons to believe this are not lacking. Aokigahara is the second place in the world chosen by those who want to take their lives, just behind the mythical Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, United States.
As we enter the forest, tranquility and peace reign. Its wide trees prevent the wind from moving freely in the place, so the silence is only broken by the song of the birds. Gone is the parking lot with the cars abandoned by those who entered the forest and never returned. Getting lost here is common, as it is difficult to orient yourself without the use of compasses or other instruments, which fail in the area.
It is not uncommon for trees to appear marked with colored chalk or even ribbons to guide the suicides out again. In the depths is when posters begin to appear in several languages to urge visitors to abandon the idea of committing suicide. The signs say phrases like “think again”, “do not suffer alone, before contacting someone”, accompanied in all cases by a psychological assistance telephone. Every day crews roam the place in search of the bodies of the people who decided to leave everything. Many of them are not found until years later due to the complications of the terrain.
In total, it is estimated that between 50 and 100 people a year go to this place to end their lives. Since the first data offered in the 50s, more than 500 bodies have been found in Aokigahara, related to suicide. The year 2003 was the record year of this tragic report with 100 people dead, almost 30 more than the previous year. In the vast majority of cases, these people resorted to the use of branches to hang themselves or the consumption of high doses of pills.
However, the data is not 100% known, since the Japanese authorities decided to stop publishing suicide data in the forest to try to move the issue away with the forest.
The reasons for its black history
Historically Japan is one of the countries with the highest suicide rate. By 2015, there were 1.5 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants, which placed it among the five countries with the most cases. There are many attempts to explain why this place has become a suicide mecca.
The origin could be traced back to the 19th century, when it was usual to leave the elderly and children of poor families in the forest before the usual epidemics and famines that ravaged the country. In addition, Aokigahara is associated with demons of Japanese mythology, which relate to a curse of the place.
There are two Japanese works that show the forest as a perfect place for suicide. One of them is a story “The black sea of trees” that tells the story of two lovers who go to the place to commit suicide. The second, “Complete suicide manual,” describes the woodland forest as the ideal place to end life, even praising the hanging.
Nor should we forget that In Japanese culture, unlike the Christian or Muslim, suicide is not a cowardly act nor is it a sin, quite the opposite. Already in the time of the samurai, these were inflicted wounds in honor. Nor can we forget the famous “kamikazes” that made their appearance in World War II.