Thursday, August 9, 2012

AOKIGAHARA - Suicide forest

One of the places I must visit before I die.

Aokigahara (青木ヶ原) is a forest that lies at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan. There are over 100 dead bodies found in Aokigahara every year. The forest is a popular place where most suicides, after the Golden Gate Bridge, take place. You can wander around and suddenly come across rotten bodies, guns, razor blades, suicide letters nailed on trees. A sign at the forests entry tries to hold people back,”mind your children, mind your parents,talk about your pain”,a phone number of a suicide hotline under it. Even children were found dead in the Forest. Old cars are standing in front of the forest, broken bicycles. There are tents with dead bodies, arms, legs, even eyes in them lying around.

This popularity is often attributed to the 1960 novel Nami no Tō  by Seichō Matsumoto, which ends with two lovers committing suicide in the forest. However, the history of suicide in Aokigahara dates from before the novel’s publication, and the place has long been associated with death: ubasute was practiced there into the 19th century, and the forest is reputedly haunted by the ghosts of those left to die.

Since the 1950s, more than 500 people have lost their lives in the forest, mostly suicides.  The high rate of suicide has led officials to place signs in the forest, in Japanese and English, urging those who have gone there in order to commit suicide to seek help and not kill themselves. The annual body search, consisting of a small army of police, volunteers and attendant journalists, began in 1970.