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Friday, February 28, 2014

The Suicide Forest Of Japan

If you kill yourself in a forest, does anyone hear you?

Probably not, which is why Japan's Aokigahara (青木ヶ原) is known as the Suicide Forest.

The 35-square-kilometer (14-square-mile) forest is situated about 62.5 kilometers (100 miles) west of Tokyo at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan.

Locals also call the place Jukai (Sea of Trees) because - well, you can figure that out.

The place is quite popular with tourists because of a pair of caves: the Ice Cave and the Wind Cave, which leads me to believe that they need someone more imagination to name things. Ask me. Or a 10-year-old.  

Anyhow, these trees in the forest actually block out the wind… and because there's a near-absence of any wildlife, the forest is known for being exceptionally quiet.

Which is what you want, when you are going to kill yourself… peace and quiet… and no one around to tell you that your life is worth living… no… there at at the Aokigahara Forest… you can be all by yourself… completely one with nature… one with the universe…. and in my mind realize how great it is to be a part of it.

Don't kill yourself. If you have suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone. Now. You would be surprised by how much people really do care about you.

But… the Japanese people really do seem to love their suicide. They have romanticized it with the upper-class samurai traditions of Bushido (the Way of the Warrior) via hara-kari and seppuku - calling it a ritualistic suicide involving disemboweling. (Death before dishonor is a US Marine's motto borrowed from Bushido, in case you wanted to know.)

What rot. In the case of the samurai, it's not about honor… it's about a failure to go on with one's life and to do good in it. The samurai were breed to realize that failure is death. Death before capture by an enemy or death because I failed my master.

All I can say is that if a samurai has failed in his duty (IE let his master die), rather than kill himself, he could still bring honor to himself by making it his life's work to say… I don't know, helping people. Help the orphans? Make umbrellas?

Oh... and in Japan, hara-kiri is a spoken term and seppuku a written term for the same act. It has nothing to do with a Chicago Cubs baseball announcer.
Please refrain from killing yourself in our forest... there are other places where you can do that.
Anyhow… the Aokigahara forest has historically been associated with suicides and creepy things.

Some believe that suicides became popular in the forest thanks to the actions contained within the 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai (Black Sea of Trees) by Matsumoto Seichō (surname first) where a couple killed themselves. I think I read it.

Perhaps another reason for the continued rate of suicide in this forest is the fact that in 1993, The Complete Manual Of Suicides by Tsurukumi Wataru (surname first) was published noting that the Aokigahara forest was a good place to kill oneself owing to its tranquility, lack of animals or people.

Look... while I am the type of guy who is curious enough to want to read this book - I've read Mein Kampf, the Quran, The Holy Bible, The Anarchist's Cookbook, The Prince, The Art of War, and Alice's Adventure's In Wonderland (how that get in this list?) - and I've not wanted to take over the world, so I'm pretty sure I could handle a manual on suicide... but come on! I swear! Everyone who buys that book should be monitored to make sure they don't do anything to themselves.

Look… I'm glad the Japanese like to read, but maybe you should read a happy book instead and try and be happy.Go watch a marathon of Pokemon or something.

But… let's not blame books or the morose Japanese people of 1960 who were only 15 years removed from having their country essentially changed forever at the conclusion of WWII (and they have no one to blame but themselves).

Matsumoto actually chose the suicide location for his novel because the history of suicide in Aokigahara predates the novel's publication, and the place has long been associated with death.

Say what?

Apparently, there's a rural legend (it's not really urban, out in the forest), that people used to regularly perform ubasute.

Ubasute is the supposedly-true-but-there's-no-proof-of-it action whereby the old or the sick are taken out to some remote or desolate place and are left there to die.

As such… because people were supposed to have died horribly of starvation, dehydration, wolves… whatever… the Aokigahara Forest is supposed to be rife with Yūrei (angry spirits) of those left to die.

It's supposed to have happened in the 18th century - which is pretty vague, I realize.

Now… if this seems impossible for someone to do—the Japanese respect the elderly and make sure they are looked after—let's look a scenario.
Sure... from this view it looks like a nice place... 
You guys know of Hansel & Gretel, right? The tale that begins with an eastern European family too poor to look after their kids so the parents dump them in the woods… why was that used in a fairy tale? Because these things did occur. Not often, mind you. But it happened. (Though I'm sure no one was found by a witch living in  gingerbread house.) People do that crap nowadays (around the world) dumping unwanted dogs and cats out in the country.
... but in the forest, it's actually ugly and creepy.
It's probably the same in Japan… one person went and got rid of a sick or elderly relative - and presto! - instant legend… especially when that story travels around the country. It's always going to become bastardized.

Anyhow… Aokigahara Forest… despite the demons swirling about, the Sea of Trees has become a popular place to kill oneself… with such numbers as:
  • 73 in 1998;
  • 68 in 1999;
  • 59 in 2000;
  • 59 in 2001;
  • 78 in 2002
  • 105  in 2003;
  • 108 in 2004;
  • 247 attempts and 54 successes (?!) in 2010.
You get the idea... 

The Aokigahara forest is actually the second most-popular place to die in the world (after jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in California).

Geez… maybe you don't want to go for a walk in the woods! There's nothing to see here!

Apparently the suicide rates tend to rise during the month of March, at the end of the fiscal business year…

Maybe there needs to be a guard at the entrance to the place - refusing to allow entrance to anyone wearing a pin-striped business suit.

"Excuse me… are you done with that tree? No? Let me know when you are. I like your navy blue suit. Can I have it?"

Apparently the most popular forms of suicide at Aokigahara Forest are: hanging and drug overdose.
Not sure if this is real or not - but would this be how you would want to die? Look at the mess you've made.
In recent years, the local government has stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to downplay Aokigahara's association with suicide. In fact, it became so heart-wrenching for the forestry people that they put up numerous signs in Japanese and English, urging people to reconsider their actions and to not feed the nonexistent bears.

Okay… maybe just signs urging people to not kill themselves… Give me a break. It's such a heavy topic, I just wanted to lighten up the article.

But… why aren't there many animals there? You'd figure with all those people killing themselves, animals would have a field day snacking on the bodies!

Hmmm… could it be the angry demons spirits scaring away the animals? Every show on television dealing with the occult says that animals are very attuned to the spirit world. TV would never lie to us… would it? I do know wolves were hunted to extinction in Japan.

Anyhow… because this forest is situated at the base of Mt. Fuji - an active volcano - quite naturally the forest floor consists of volcanic rock… good luck digging your own grave.

Since 1970 police and volunteers conduct annual treks into the forest to search for bodies.

Be very, very quite. I'm hunting bodies. hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu.

And yet… there are still a lot of tourists willing to brave the haunted demon forest filled with suicide deaths in hopes of looking in a cave or two. These tourists are also pigs. By that I mean they tend to leave an inordinate amount of litter about… which boggles my mind. If you people love nature so much why are you fugging it up?
Messy... messy...
Still… as with most things… the farther you get away from the entrance, the more pristine it is in the interior. Except for the corpses, of course.

Let that be a lesson to you kiddies. Whenever you go into a strange forest to do some spelunking, make sure you watch your step and avoid the demon spirits - and by all means, please don't interrupt the suicidal. Unless you have a conscience.

Only YOU can prevent suicides.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
Again… if you are depressed enough to have suicidal thoughts - please talk to someone about those thoughts. Despite me making light about a place that is so chic that people are dying to get in, suicide should not be a viable option. Get some help for yourself.Seriously... if you knew how screwed up MY life was, you'd wonder how I could go on or even smile and enjoy myself. But I do. It's called hope. Never give up on hope.

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