The Forest of Aokigahara

Entrance+to+Aokigahara+forest
Entrance to Aokigahara forest

Entrance to Aokigahara forest

Entrance to Aokigahara forest

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Earlier this month, a famous Youtuber Logan Paul traveled to Japan and took a trip to one of country’s most famous forests, the Aokigahara Forest. The forest is called the “Sea of Trees” by the Japanese natives, but the rest of the world has deemed this forest the “Suicide Forest”.

The forest has a historical reputation as home to ghosts of the dead in Japanese mythology. It is rumored that during times of famine, ubasute would take place in the forest. Ubasute is a form of euthanasia that translates to “abandoning the old woman”. It was an uncommon practice where a family would lessen the amount of mouths they had to feed by bringing an elderly relative to the forest to die not by means of suicide but by starvation or exposure. Some insist this was not a real occurrence, but rather grim tales do exist. Regardless, stories of the Sea of Trees being a site for such abandonment have long been a part of its history.

Recently, Aokigahara has become internationally known as one of the world’s most prevalent suicide sites. In 2003, 105 bodies were found in the forest. In 2010, it was recorded that more than 200 people attempted suicide in the forest, and a total of 54 completed the act. Death by hanging is the most popular form of suicide among the Sea of Trees. The second is said to be poisoning, often by drug overdose.

The rate of suicide has led officials to place a sign at the forest’s entry, written in Japanese, urging suicidal visitors to seek help and not take their own lives. “Quietly think once more about your parents, siblings, or children,” is written on a sign at the entrance of the forest. “Please don’t suffer alone, and first reach out.” Latterly, local officials have stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to decrease Aokigahara’s association with suicide in a bid to change its reputation.

There tends to be a spike in people taking their own lives in March, at the end of Japan’s financial year.

Japan has one of the highest suicide rates of any country in the world. The country was ranked 26th globally among suicide rates in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. That figure is higher than most developed nations, including the United States.

Since 1970, annual body searches have been conducted by police, volunteers, and attendant journalists. According to some search reports, workers must bring the bodies from the forest to the local police station, where they are put  in a designated room used only to house suicide corpses. In Japan, some believe that if a corpse is left alone, it is bad for the ghost of the suicide victims. Their spirits are said to scream through the night, and that their bodies will function on their own.

The Aokigahara Forest is a somber place. The circumstances inside the area should be taken seriously.

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