On this month's Morbidly Fascinating Page:

Everyone has heard of Japan's Aokigahara Forest, also known as The Suicide Forest. In fact, movies have been made about it. But what is real and what is myth? This article tells you.

In the Morbidly Fascinating Archives

Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Titanic Photos Before and After it Sank
Utrecht Hospital
Mysterious Photos
Ghosts of Alcatraz


This is the sign posted at the front entrance. The rough translation says "Life is a precious thing given to us by our parents. One more time, let's calmly think about our parents, siblings and children. Don't be troubled by yourself, please confide in someone." This message is followed by a phone number to Japan's suicide hotline.


Inside the Aokigahara Forest


Location map: Northwest of Mount Fuji is The Aokigahara Forest, which is 13.5 square miles of forest so thick with foliage that one of its many nicknames is The Sea of Trees.

About Japan's Aokigahara Forest

Why This Forest?

Many wonder "Why Aokigahara? Why not any other of Japan’s many peaceful forests?”

Romanticism is perhaps one reason. Ubasute is a folkloric practice in which families abandoned their elderly relatives in remote areas during times of famine. The Suicide Forest was said to be such a place, haunted by the ghosts of those left behind to die of starvation or exposure. Since many who pursue suicide believe (usually wrongly) that they’re a burden to their families, the connection may have meaning.


Some say that a 1961 book Nami no Tō (Tower of Waves) by popular author Seichō Matsumoto idealized the notion of ending one’s life in the Sea of Trees. It’s also been mentioned in Japanese how-to guides on suicide, and in the past decade, the forest has become the setting (and central focus) of a few American dramatic films.

The Lore and Lure of Aokigahara

The suicide forest itself consistently ranks as the World’s 2nd most popular suicide hotspot (behind only San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge), but officials stopped releasing incident data in 2003. Between 1998 and 2003, there were close to 100 annual confirmed suicides in the forest. The number of actual suicides each year is believed to be much higher, as the sheer size of the forest leads many bodies to be lost to natural decompostion. 

Officials post signs with suicide hotline numbers and pleas imploring those on suicidal pilgrimages to “think about their families” and to seek comfort in crisis counselors. Some of the signs even appear in English, as this has become an increasingly world famous location.

The Suicide Cleanup

Volunteers who patrol the forest each month report finding about 100 bodies annually, and those who patrol on a daily basis have succeeded in saving at least twice as many lives. As previously mentioned, volunteers don’t find all the bodies; the forest is approximately 12 square miles, and one doesn’t have to go far off trail to become disoriented. This is why rescuers, suicide cleanup teams, and public safety officials use tape, ribbon, rope, or string to mark their paths.

Being that many of the suicides occur within the nature of the forest, a general suicide cleanup team can typically handle the job. On certain occasions however, it is not uncommon to come across a vehicle with a deceased person in it near or within the forest. In this specific instance, a team capable of performing a biohazard cleaning service is necessary.

See more HERE


The Facts

Self-inflicted death doesn't carry the same stigma in Japan as it does in other countries. The practice of seppuku—a samurai's honorable suicide—dates back to Japan's feudal era. And while the tradition is no longer the norm, "vestiges of the seppuku culture can be seen today in the way suicide is viewed as a way of taking responsibility." As recently as 2015, there were 15.4 suicides per 100,000 population, which breaks down to 9.2 for women and 21.7 for men.

The number of suicides in the forest:

The global financial crisis of 2008 and ensuing economic instability seemed to spur a 15% increase in suicides in Japan during that time. The incidence peaked in March 2009, the end of Japan's fiscal year. As of 2011, the most common means of suicide in the forest were hangings or drug overdoses. In recent years, local officials have stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to decrease Aokigahara's association with suicide. An exact count of the deaths are unknown since many bodies are claimed by decompostion and are never found.

The Japanese government enacted suicide prevention strategies in Aokigahara.

The plans aimed to reduce Japan's suicide rates by 20 percent over seven years. Part of these measures included posting security cameras at the entrance of Aokigahara and increasing patrols. Suicide prevention counselors and police have also posted signs on various paths throughout the forest that offer messages like "Think carefully about your children, your family" and "Your life is a precious gift from your parents."

Annual searches for the deceased have been held in Aokigahara since 1970.

In 2003, 105 bodies were found in the forest, exceeding the previous record of 78 in 2002. Volunteers patrol the area and recover the remains of the deceased. Police and volunteers trek through the sea of trees to bring bodies out of the forest for a proper burial. In the early 2000s, 70 to 100 people’s remains were uncovered each year. More recently, the Japanese government has declined to publicize the numbers of bodies recovered from the searches.

Bringing a tent into Aokigahara will draw attention.

Camping is allowed in the area, but police consider visitors who bring tents to be potentially contemplating suicide (visitors who stay for multiple days are believed to be weighing their decisions). People on prevention patrol will gently speak with campers and encourage them to leave the forest.

In Aokigahara, you may not be able to call for help.

The forest’s soil is rich in magnetic iron, which disrupts cell phone service, GPS systems, and even compasses. If you get lost, you may not be able to report your emergency—hence the comparatively low-tech plastic tape.

See more HERE

The Myths

Is Aokigahara haunted?

From All That's Interesting:

Aokigahara Forest has always haunted the poetic imagination. Long ago, it was said to be the home of Yūrei, Japanese ghosts. Now it's the final resting place of as many as 100 suicide victims every year.

What most people who come to Japan’s Suicide Forest say they remember is the silence. Beneath fallen branches and decaying leaves, the forest floor is made of volcanic rock, cooled lava from Mount Fuji’s massive 864 eruption. The stone is hard and porous, full of tiny holes that eat the noise.

In the stillness, visitors say every breath sounds like a roar. It’s a forest devoid of wildlife. No birds chirp overhead, and there are no sounds of scurrying animals in the underbrush.

Those who stray from the trail sometimes encounter disquieting reminders of past tragedies: scattered personal belongings and sometimes even the evidence of a dead person. Moss-covered shoes, photographs, briefcases, notes, and ripped clothing have all been discovered strewn across the forest floor.

From Ghosts Wiki:

Some Japanese believe that if a person dies a sudden, unnatural or violent death (such as suicide), the spirit will turn into a Yūrei. If a body is not properly buried, or if a person dies with strong, negative feelings such as depression or rage, then the spirit will turn into a Yūrei. When the Syfy paranormal investigation show Destination Truth investigated the forest, they may have caught one of these apparitions on camera. Was it a Yūrei, or just a trick of the light?

Aokigahara Forest may or may not be haunted by Yūrei or other spirits. It might just be a dark place with a darker history. But many who have been there agree that it certainly "feels" haunted. If you go, stay on the path.