Welcome to Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, a charming 14 square mile stretch at the northwest base of scenic Mt. Fuji. The quiet forest is filled with gorgeous trees and several icy caverns which are quite a tourist attraction. There’s also a better-than-average chance you’ll find a corpse or two.
No one really knows for sure why this beautiful tract of land attracts so many wishing to end their existence. Some connect it to a 1960 novel “Kuroi Jukai” (Black Sea of Trees) but the suicides pre-date the novel. In fact, the area has long had deathly connotations. It is believed that Ubasute was performed there in the 19th century, the act of bringing the infirm and elderly to a remote location to die, but this may be apocryphal. Regardless, many still believe it is haunted by the angry spirits of those who were allegedly left there.
Despite the uncertain reasoning, there’s no doubt that the woods have become over the decades (centuries?) THE place to go in Japan to end it all. An average of 100 bodies a year are found in the woods, along with all sorts of odd things left behind by those who have ventured there with harikari intentions, although most of the deaths discovered are caused by hanging or drug overdose. In a documentary about the forest that follows a local geologist, Azusa Hayano, who works regularly in the forest, he finds a doll nailed to a tree, suicide notes written on wooden boards, and a number of dead bodies in various states of decay.
The Suicide Prevention Association has filled the area with signs that say things like, “Your life is a precious gift from your parents. Please think about your parents, siblings and children. Don’t keep it to yourself. Talk about your troubles.” but unfortunately the suicide rate there only seems to increase.