Aokigahara Forest (青木ヶ原樹海)

 brown trees on brown soil

Image source: Jake Weirick

From its mysterious beauty to heartbreaking tales, there is much to know about Aokigahara Forest. In this article, we will explore the creepy legends of this forest and discover why it has become such a dark destination for those seeking death. 

Is Aokigahara forest a national park?

Aokigahara, termed 青木ヶ原樹海in Japanese, is also known as the ‘Blue Tree Meadow’ or ‘The Sea of Trees’. It is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park that offers numerous walking trails for hikers and nature lovers. In addition to its lush forest, Aokigahara has three lava caves open to the public for exploration, Bat Cave, Ice Cave, and Wind Cave.

However, Aokigahara is not famously known for the variety of flora or lava caves that it hosts. Rather, it is infamously known for its nickname, ‘Suicide Forest’, due to the tragically high number of suicide cases recorded there.

According to a case report by Y. Takahashi published in 1988, about 30 people commit suicide in Aokigahara annually. As quoted from CNN Health, “More than 100 people who were not from the area surrounding Aokigahara committed suicide there between 2013 and 2015”. It is rumored that many people considering suicide had heard that Aokigahara was a popular suicide spot and specifically traveled there to commit suicide so that they would not die alone.

Where is Aokigahara Forest located?

Aokigahara Forest is located at the foot of Mount Fuji, Japan's most recognizable and famous mountain. Specifically, it is situated on the north-western flank of Mount Fuji on the island of Honshu in Japan.

How far is Aokigahara from Tokyo?

A quick search on Google Maps shows that Aokigahara is about 132km away from Tokyo and it takes around 1 hour and 34 minutes to reach there by car.

Is Aokigahara open to the public?

Yes, Aokigahara is open to the general public. In fact, it is a popular tourist destination where tourists can travel there alone or engage a tour guide to explore the forest. It is a hot spot for trekking experiences and cave exploration.

Is Aokigahara safe?

Since Aokigahara is open to visitors, it is generally considered safe to visit. Due to the high amount of suicide cases, Imasa Watanabe of the Yamanashi prefectural government said that local authorities had also stepped up on security and situated cameras at the entrances of the forest, hoping to track those who walk inside. The height of bridge rails had also been raised, police patrol increased at the entrances of the forest, and volunteers trained to talk to potentially suicidal visitors.

However, a past visitor of Aokigahara, Ashley Wallace, cautioned visitors from hiking there alone and staying overnight in the forest. According to her, “Moss and lichen grow on all sides of the trees and the air feels damp. It is the same no matter where you go in Aokigahara. It is a literal sea of trees and they all look alike. Navigating is nearly impossible, and there is no cellphone reception in the center. The little pockets in the ground are also covered with decaying wood and moss so you really do take your life in your own hands when you go off trail”.

Another visitor, Ernest Hall II, warned that Aokigahara has “some terribly unforgiving terrain”. He mentioned, “The ground there is almost entirely lava rock once you make your way off of the trail, and that rock is pretty crazy. It can be very jagged, and it presents a considerable obstacle to travelers in some areas. You can imagine how easy it would be to lodge your foot between two of those crazy rock formations. Injuries are very, very possible.”

Therefore, it might be a better idea to visit Aokigahara in a group and engage an experienced tour guide who is familiar with the area to guide you along if you intend to explore the forest.

Is Aokigahara silent?

Yes, it is eerily quiet in Aokigahara due to the high density of the trees. Trees can actually act as sound barriers, reducing noise pollution. The silence is also contributed by the low density of wildlife there.

According to Ashley Wallace, “While I was there, I heard no bird song or rustling of leaves in the wind. Think a “blanket of silence”. Go in about 20-30 feet and you can’t even hear cars from the road.”

How popular is Aokigahara?

As mentioned previously, Aokigahara is notoriously popular as a suicide spot. Due to the publication of several books, movies, media reports, and videos related to it, the popularity of this mysterious forest has increased. Books such as the 1960’s novel, “Tower of Waves” by Seichō Matsumoto and “The Complete Manual of Suicide” by Wataru Tsurumi, both featured Aokigahara as a suicide spot. In 2016, Aokigahara was also featured in an American horror film, “The Forest”, where a woman visited the forest desperately in search of her twin sister who had disappeared in the woods. In 2017, YouTuber Logan Paul posted a controversial video on his channel featuring the body of a suicide victim in the forest. His video went viral and sparked international debates, bringing Aokigahara into the spotlight. All these boosted dark tourism in Aokigahara, attracting not just thrill-seekers who are interested to catch a glimpse of the dark side of the forest (the bodies) and also those who travel there with the intention of ending their own lives.

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