By Eric Marcum:
It is known as The Suicide Forest. Though no official numbers are released by the Japanese government, it is estimated that at least 70 bodies a year are recovered from the forest by workers at the preserve. This number is believed to be conservative and does not, of course, take into account those bodies that are never found.
It is not uncommon to find vehicles in the trailhead parking lot that have been there for months. Their owners assumed dead somewhere in the forest. Aokigahara is second only to the Golden Gate Bridge for the number of suicides that have been committed there.
The nature of the forest only adds to its sinister reputation. The density of the forest means that very little light penetrates the canopy overhead. The forest is eerily silent because neither sound nor wind penetrate far into the densely packed trees.
There is also no wildlife to speak of as the thickness of the woods makes it hard to move around in, and there are few food resources. In the past these conditions made Aokigahara a perfect place to lose unwanted family members during lean times. For hundreds of years, many elderly and infirm were taken into the forest to die.
If you ignore the signs and choose to leave the well maintained paths, it probably won’t take long for you to encounter some plastic ribbon. Many who contemplate suicidewill use the ribbon to mark a trail.
For some, it is to find their way back to the path if they change their minds. For others, it is to mark where their bodies may be found and recovered. Forest workers often find these bodies and are tasked with recovering them and taking them to a local police building with a room specifically set aside to hold them until the proper authorities can retrieve the corpses.
The workers then play a game like rock, paper, scissors to determine who will spend the night with the corpse in order to keep from angering the spirit further.
It is said that those who die within Aokigahara do not find rest. The elderly, blind, and crippled who were abandoned by their families in times of famine or strife become restless and angry because their families treated them so horribly.
Suicides become angry spirits called yurie. Committing suicide outside of a certain well-known ritual that serves to protect honor, is believed to keep the spirit from joining its ancestors in the afterlife. The yurie are said to haunt the forest and fan the flames of discontent and melancholy in those who enter the forest with a heavy heart.
Can all of this sadness and death centered in one location create a quantum singularity of despair? Is there be anything that could cause a greater sense of betrayal, and grief than to have your own children leave you to die alone and unwanted? To end your life surrounded by the cries of lost souls in a sea of trees.
Written by: Joseph