Aokigahara Forest- Calm Sea of Suicide
For decades, Japan fought and still is fighting a hopeless battle against the most notorious national killer, suicide. Despite all efforts and preventive measures, the suicide figures in Japan resume to rampage, wrecking havoc on all charts. Small ebbs are barely noticeable, they are nothing more than tiny specs, leaving the spotlight to the grim, looming numbers of corpses. The greatest contributor to this horrid trend is Aokigahara, the second most popular suicide destination. According to official reports, in Aokigahara around 100 people commits suicide annually, mostly by hanging, but people believe that the real figure is far more greater.
Paradoxically, Aokigahara has a rich history and is a popular tourist attraction (Ice and Wind Cave, beautiful view of Fujiyama). Situated less than a hundred miles West from Tokyo, Aokigahara is a forest at the base of Mount Fuji that radiates creepiness and isolation: tall, winding trees can make hiking and tracking difficult; the volcanic soil and rocky terrain cause chaos with GPS and mobile phones; wildlife is scarce, intensifying the feeling of isolation and segregation that lingers within Aokigahara forest. Many Japanese refuse to enter the forest, believing that it is haunted by the restless spirits of those that have taken their life there (mostly men in their early to late forties) due financial failures and job loss.
However, Aokigahara’s dark side has a longer history: the ancient custom of “Ubasute” has been practiced here during the most perilous famines. According to it, the elderly members of the family would be sent to the remote places such as mountains or forests to die and thereby decrease the number of mouths that had needed to be fed. Though considered a superstition by some, the sheer notion of possibility made Aokigahara a “desirable” destination for suicide.
This “popularity” has been further perpetuated by written means. Author Seicho Matsumoto with his novel “Kuroi Jukai” (1960) tells a story of two lovers committing suicide in Aokigahara forest. Later on, in 1993, Wataru Tsurumi wrote a manual for performing suicide called “The Complete Suicide Manual” in which he considered hanging to be the best way to end one’s life. Aokigahara, according to Tsurumi is a perfect place for suicide due its dense forestry, guaranteeing that the victim’s body will never be found. These works stirred addition appeal for seeking death in Aokigahara.
However, efforts have been made to stop people from taking their lives in the grim green of Aokigahara forest. Surveillance cameras have been installed at the entrances to the wood, phone booths are scattered about and frequent patrols are on the lookout for potential victims. To further mitigate the incentive for murder, signboard have been set up in both English and Japanese saying: “Think carefully about your children, your family” or “Your life is a precious gift from your parents.” Another activity has been put in motion to stop the green jaws of death since the distant year 1970: body excavation and retrieval for proper burial.
Aokigahara is nothing but a link of the long “suicide tradition” chain in Japan. During the Middle Ages the custom of “seppuku” had been predominant among the warrior class that used to commit it in order to preserve their honor, protest or as a kind of apology for a failed task, though true reasons could venture beyond these popular three. However, the dysfunctional mindset had not been limited to the samurai class, but to all – merchants, lovers, court ladies and even the high-ranking officials that had been the real victims of the “suicide for whatever” flood that Japan drowned in. Even today, suicide is considered to be a “honorable way out” despite the consequences and this pattern of thought that is still going strong makes me sick. Aokigahara forest is the collective shame of Japan.
Some would scream “Cultural difference!”, but that could fly only among weaboos that sleep with their cushy “waifus” , katana cultists and “Japanizusuperiorizupipuru” maniacs. Have they ever asked how many families have been ruined beyond salvation by the selfish act in the lethal greenery of Aokigahara and other suicide pilgrimage destinations? How many orphans and widows have been created? How many?