Referred to as “the perfect place to die” in Wataru Tsurumui’s bestselling book – The Complete Manual of Suicide – Aokigahara is a thick, dark forest located at the base of Mount Fuji, famous as a popular suicide spot.
No one knows exactly how many bodies go undiscovered among the trees of Aokigahara forest, but the ones uncovered so far have already earned this place an eerie reputation. In 2002 alone, 78 bodies were located in Aokigahara, and by 2006, another 16 suicides were reported. Some of the victims even carried copies of Tsurumui’s book with them, which makes this even creepier. The whole place is dotted with signs that read “please reconsider!” or “please consult the police before you decide to die!” but these have little power on those determined to die here.
“We’ve got everything here that points to us being a death spot. Perhaps we should just promote ourselves as ‘Suicide City’ and encourage people to come here,” says the mayor of Aokigahara exasperated by the high number of suicides registered in the area. Locals claim they can always tell who is going into the forest to admire its natural beauty, and who isn’t planning on ever coming back. They say part of the reason people decide to commit suicide in Aokigahara forest is because they want to die at the foot of the sacred Mt. Fuji and because it’s so dense and thick that sounds from just a few kilometers inside can’t be heard outside the woods.
Aokigahara is considered the most haunted place in all of Japan, where the unsettled ghosts known as “yurei” howl their suffering on the winds. The noises heard here might be considered natural in any other forest, but knowing the reputation of this place, people tend to freak out at the sound of squeaky branch. Of course, the scary stories about the trees themselves being filled with evil energy accumulated from centuries of suicides don’t help much either. Spiritualists go as far as to say the trees don’t want you to go back out of the forest. Legends say there are massive iron deposits underneath the forest that cause compasses and other navigation gadgets to go haywire trapping both suicidals and innocent visitors. While Japan’s Self Defense Force, who regularly trains in Aokigahara says its military grade tools work just fine, they admit pretty much all commercially available equipment doesn’t.
As spooky and haunted as these suicide woods may be, they still have to be taken care of by regular forestry workers. Occasionally, they stumble upon dead bodies in various states of decomposition, usually hanging by trees or partly eaten by wild animals, but instead of running the other way screaming, they are brought to a nearby station. Here they are deposited in a spare room with two beds in it – one for the body and the other for someone to sleep next to it. The Japanese believe that if left alone, the unsettled yurei will scream all throughout the night and move into the regular sleeping quarters, so the workers play rock-paper-scissors to determine which one will sleep with the body. Now that’s what I call a tough job…