On Ways to Die, we like to look at the lighter side of death. But sometimes we come across something so bizarre, we can’t help but share it with you.
The Aokigahara Forest in Japan is one of those places. During our research, we stumbled upon this Asian landmark, and we just knew you’d want to hear about it.
Here’s what we found out.
The Death Forest
At the base of Mount Fuji in Japan lies a dense forest. The landscape is rocky, made up mostly of volcanic material. Yet despite the craggy, uneven forest floor, the twisting trees have grown foliage so thick as to block out the sun, even in the brightest of daylight.
Not everyone chooses to enter Aokigahara, and of those who do, not all return. Aokigahara is called The Death Forest, and for good reason. Over 500 lost souls have gone to the forest to commit suicide since the 1950s; the exact number is unknown, as some bodies were never recovered.
Aokigahara goes by several other names. It is called Jukai by the locals, meaning “sea of trees.” It has also been called the Suicide Forest, both by visitors and in popular culture.
Aokigahara, behind the Golden Gate Bridge, is the world’s most popular “destination” for suicide. Most who end their lives in Aokigahara do so by hanging, but others have chosen poison.
In 1993, Wataru Tsurumi wrote a book titled “The Complete Manual of Suicide,” which sold over one million copies upon its release. Hanging and overdose (See Deaths From Weed and Other Drugs) are listed within the pages as the best ways to die, and copies of the book have been found beside many of the corpses found in the Aokigahara Forest of Japan.
What Makes this Japanese Forest so Special?
No one knows what makes this Japanese Forest so special. As mentioned, the earth beneath the undergrowth is comprised largely of volcanic soil. This soil is magnetic, and causes malfunction of cell phones and compasses; it’s possible that some visitors to the Aokigahara have simply been unable to escape.
However, it’s also thought by Japanese locals that the forest is haunted. The Aokigahara Forest in Japan is not located in a remote place – it lies only 100 miles outside of Tokyo. Those who live nearby claim to hear screams from the forest at night, and believe the forest is haunted by lost souls and demons.
All who have visited Aokigahara say that upon entering, you will feel that something is “off.” That a force is at work. Whether that force is the magnetic fields toying with the brain or the work of evil spirits, no one knows.
The Ultimate Creep Forest
The Aokigahara is silent. You won’t hear birds or animals, you won’t hear insects. Little can (or does) live within the Aokigahara Forest of Japan, and the silence is unnerving. Aokigahara is the ultimate creepy forest.
Those who have fortunately returned describe their breath as “loud as thunder” and say that when they chose to speak it was muted, as if through a veil.
Signs are posted along the paths in the Aokigahara, posted by the Japanese government. These signs plead with those who may be contemplating suicide to consider their parents, their children, and to understand the torture they will be putting them through.
Objects can be found amongst the brush in the forest as well – objects which are obviously out of place. Song lyrics, children’s shoes and family photographs are among the items found in the Aokigahara.
Once each year, around the holidays, the Japanese government assembles a patrol team. These individuals are volunteers who choose to enter Aokigahara for one purpose: to recover the corpses of those who have committed suicide.
A record number of Aokigahara bodies was found in 2003. The number totaled 108, but it’s very likely that there were more. Because of the thick under- and overgrowth of Aokigahara, it’s just impossible to find some remains.
Upon retrieving the bodies, officials store the corpses in a designated room at the local station. The Japanese patrol volunteers play a game of Janken (rock – paper – scissors); the loser of the game is to spend the night in the room with those corpses.
According to Japanese spiritualists, the souls, or yurei, of those who have died a lonely or angry death will not rest at night if left alone. The souls will rise up and scream, wandering if left to their own devices.
The yurei can be put to rest by rituals performed by the living, or if the yurei return to complete the task which has left them restless. As many bodies have not been recovered from Aokigahara, many yurei still linger within the forest.
It is said that upon entering the forest, one will feel this. The trees are thought to have absorbed the negative energy of these angry yurei, and perhaps that’s why so many who have entered Aokigahara have never returned.
Aokigahara Forest Stories
Locals know that when someone enters the forest with a backpack, it is usually not their wish to return from Aokigahara. Those who do wish to remain among the living, however, often choose to use ribbon or rope to assist them in finding their way out.
One curious visitor to Aokigahara did tie ribbon to a tree, but as she traced it back to her entrance to Aokigahara, found that it had been cut. Fortunately she did survive, but no one knows who (or what) tried to make her lose her way.
Many apparitions have been seen in the Aokigahara Forest of Japan. White figures, perhaps yurei, float amongst the treess. And chilling screams aren’t uncommon. One visitor followed the sound of screams to find its source. What he found was a man’s dead body at the base of a tree.
If you intend to visit this forest, just make sure you read our Dumb Ways to Die and Worst Ways to Die instead of the suicide manual published by Tsurumi. Our site focuses on dark humor over aspirational and dangerous literature.
Other Famous Forests
There are other famous forests dotting the globe, but none are so creepy as the Aokigahara Forest of Japan. Visitors to England’s Wychwood Forest have felt hands reaching out to touch them, and have heard the sound of horses where there were none.
In The Devil’s Tramping Ground in North Carolina there is a 40 foot circle of barren land. Nothing has ever grown here, not one lowly blade of grass. Dogs whimper and tuck their tails when they’re near the spot, and no human has ever been able to spend a full night near the spot.