Aokigahara: The Sad Sea of Trees

05Mar10

JukaiAokigahara, also known as the Sea of Trees, is a 35 km2 forest that lies at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The forest contains a number of rocky, icy caverns, a few of which are popular tourist destinations. The forest, which has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology, is a popular place for suicides; in 2002, 78 bodies were found, despite numerous signs, in Japanese and English, urging people to reconsider their actions.
Due to the wind-blocking density of the trees, and an absence of wildlife, the forest is known for being eerily quiet.

The forest floor consists primarily of volcanic rock and is difficult to penetrate with hand tools such as picks or shovels. There are also a variety of unofficial trails that are used semi-regularly for the annual “body hunt” done by local volunteers, who mark their search areas with plastic tape. The plastic tape is never removed, so a great deal of it litters the first kilometer of the forest, past the designated trails leading to tourist attractions such as the Ice Cave and Wind Cave. After the first kilometer into Aokigahara towards Mount Fuji, the forest is in a much more pristine state, with little to no litter and few obvious signs of human contact.

Lovers’ End

Aokigahara1Qx0The forest is a popular place for suicides, reportedly the world’s second most popular suicide location after San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. This popularity is often attributed to the 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai 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.

Body Search

Since the 1950s, more than 500 people have lost their lives in the forest, mostly suicides, with an average of approximately 30 counted yearly. In 2002, 78 bodies were found within the forest, replacing the previous record of 73 in 1998. In 2003 the rate climbed to 100, and in recent years the local government has stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to downplay Aokigahara’s association with suicide. 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.

Aside from those intending to die there, the dense forest and rugged inaccessibility has attracted thrill seekers. Many of these hikers mark their routes by leaving colored plastic tapes behind, causing concerns from prefectural officials for the ecosystem of the forest.

Recent Finds

Aokigahara Suicide Forest 3In 2004, a movie about the forest was released, called Jyukai — The Sea of Trees Behind Mt. Fuji, by the director Takimoto Tomoyuki. It tells the story of four people who decide to end their lives in the forest of Aokigahara. While scouting for shooting locations, Takimoto told reporters that he found a wallet containing 370,000 yen (roughly $3,760 USD), giving rise to the popular rumor that Aokigahara is a treasure trove for scavengers. Others have claimed to have found credit cards, rail passes, and driver’s licenses. [Source]

Forrest Workers

In Aokigahara, the forest workers have it worse than the police. The workers must carry the bodies down from the forest to the local station, where the bodies are put in a special room used specifically to house suicide corpses. The forest workers then play jan-ken-pon – which English-speakers call rock, paper, scissors – to see who has to sleep in the room with the corpse. It is believed to be very bad luck if the corpse is left alone, for the “yurei” (ghost) of the suicide will scream through the night, and the body will move itself on its own.

Image Gallery

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Aokigahara 15

Aokigahara 19

Aokigahara Suicide Forest 12

Aokigahara Suicide Forest 9

Aokigahara Suicide Forest 10

Aokigahara 471

Aokigahara Suicide Forest 7

Aokigahara Suicide Forest 8

Aokigahara Suicide Forest 6

Aokigahara 3

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45 Responses to “Aokigahara: The Sad Sea of Trees”

  1. 1 jugzwei

    Nice to see some posting here again. And this is one of the best reads in a while. Sounds like a very interesting place.

  2. 2 trmos

    Very interesting. I love the macabre!

  3. 3 Demi

    This is very sad…but actually very interesting

  4. 4 Mr.Nevermind

    It’s amazing to think a place like this actually exists.

  5. 5 Some Guy

    Holy… Jesus… Christ… Jfrater… is… still… alive…

    • 6 trmos

      Holy indeed.

  6. 7 KatiesGoldenDust

    I’m so glad I checked back here every day, despite the fact that there were no updates for almost four months. A very good read indeed! 🙂

  7. 8 Ender

    Wow. Haven’t even read the story yet, just damn glad to see it.

  8. 9 swejulie

    I am so happy to see you posting again! Please keep it up – this is an excellent site.

  9. 10 jon

    A sad but interesting place. It’s good that the Japanese authorities are downplaying suicides in the area and are leaving notes to seek help instead of taking their own lives.

  10. 11 deeeziner

    I’ve come across the tales and photos of this forest a few times in the past. Depressing every single time. Though considering the Japanese tendency towards symbolism and orderliness, the forest must seem the perfect setting for such a drastic act.

    A walk through the place must be very unsettling, knowing how many souls are lurking about.

    It’s good to see you able to give the site some of your attention JF. Hope to see more soon.

  11. 12 Kimberly

    Glad to see the some new things on the site. This article was particularly chilling. I recently watched a documentary about suicides at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. As morbid as the subject is, it was fascinating hearing people’s stories about it.

  12. glad you’re posting again =) i’ve heard about the suicides before, but i especially liked the bit about the forest workers playing rock paper scissors to see who has to sleep in the room with the corpse. And “It is believed to be very bad luck if the corpse is left alone, for the “yurei” (ghost) of the suicide will scream through the night, and the body will move itself on its own.” really interesting =) the pictures are so sad.

  13. 14 ianz09

    See you guys in again in 6 months!

    • 15 RobAwen

      This website is so cool, Its a shame its never updated 😦

      • 16 Nihilady

        If its never updated.. you wouldn’t have had an article to post a comment to.

        • 17 Malaysian

          Shut up!

  14. 18 marykerbie

    It’s amazing to me how some of these corpses are so decomposed yet their clothing is in good condition. It’s like they were “eaten” yet the story says there is no wildlife in the woods. Eerie!

  15. 19 Luka

    You’re alive! I was preparing your funeral and everything…

    We was gonna have cak 😀

  16. 20 Milqytoast

    I’m currently living in Japan, and I’ve heard about this place. There’s a place called Tojinbo, in Fukui Prefecture, that’s known as a popular place for suicides, too. I’ve been there and it’s a spectacular sight. It’s actually a tourist spot as well. Anyway, my point is, I believe there are several “suicide hot-spots” around Japan. Guess I better start researching.

    On a side cultural note, the Japanese do jan-ken-pon to decide just about everything!

  17. 21 Steffy

    My paranormal group is going on a trip there next year. We need to raise the money first.

    • 22 Casper

      Do u think u’r with ghost hunters or something?

  18. 23 M

    FINALLY! A new post!

  19. 24 Ic

    Sad, I wonder why it’s so attractive to die there… :S But I can’t help but wonder that scavengers might find it paradise…

  20. 25 Wynne Carluk

    It would be interesting to do a “ghost Hunters” sort of thing in those woods. I imagine you would come back with some great night-time photography.

  21. 26 David

    They actually did a ghost hunters type thing, i believe it aired on the sci-fi network in the US. The title of the show is Destination Truth, and I think it was off of their second season.

    • 27 AlysonChains

      are you serious?? I’m definitely going to have to track that episode down! That show is pretty good 🙂

  22. I can just reccomand everyone to read this posts , and enjoy them all this guy knows what he is writing about!

  23. 29 Garnet

    What a sad place.. it’s also very sad that many people commit suicide.
    Life is too precious to be wasted..

  24. 30 Mariposa

    I was just watching an episode of Destination Truth, and they were in those woods. They found some fotos, and the content of a wallet all ripped of on the ground. Also an abandoned tent. They recorded a voice saying “Get out”, and a camera recorded an image of something that looked as a person. One of them “saw person standing” but didin’t recorded.
    Is very sad to see this kind of thing, but also interesting. I mean, those woods semeed very creepy.

  25. 31 Danielle

    omg are those pics of real people that hung themselves there…that’s just awful!

  26. 32 H.

    Unfortunately, most of the article is copy paste from Wikipedia.

    • 33 l.

      True, but still, it’s here where i learn about things like this; these articles aren’t something one just stumbles across on wikipedia, and Jfrater brings them to us, and sorts out the useless info.

  27. This stuff is comforting. I suffer from depression. Ive been sitting here crying and hating myself for an hour now, checked on this site out of curiosity and am comforted. Seeing death when you consider it is eye opening.

  28. 35 ri~ chan

    I live an hour from the forest, the first time I went with my boyfriend, at the time I didn’t know about the forest & I was taking him to Fuji five lakes because he’d never been. We were walking down to one of the lakes & he saw some shoes and told me that Japanese people will take them off before they commit suicide. He then looked up at the trees & I asked him what he was looking for but there was nothing there.

    Today I had the day off work & went there because it’s the rainy season now and all weekend there was a low mist over the mountains & I wanted to take photos. This morning it cleared so I wasn’t able to get anything good. There are two paths off the main track between the ice cave & the wind cave that have rope & signs saying not to enter, I went up the first track but couldn’t bring myself to go down the second. A young Japanese couple saw me coming down the track & waited there for me & asked what I was doing … I wanted to know where such clear paths lead but I couldn’t go that way by myself.

    It’s really not a place you go to on your own, I saw a lot of couples, some groups of people & a few middle aged men wandering around by themselves. Tonight I’m worried about men I saw there alone.

    Anyway, it’s 2am & despite the fact I have to be up early for work, I can’t sleep.

    I’d like to suggest you take down the photos of the bodies.

    Little gold woman, please seek help. This is not comforting, it’s disturbing. Since first going to the forest I’ve thought about it often …

  29. 36 Lauren

    It’s interesting how there’s seems to be a culture correlation concerning ubasute, assuming that the current trend of Japanese elderly living with their grandchildren have had it’s roots in earlier times, including the financial responsibilities of the oldest son.

  30. 37 Juri

    It’s sad to think that so many people killed themselves there; I’ve been there, in the pit of despair and considering suicide but I guess I was just too bloody minded to want to do it. I didn’t want my enemies to think that they’d won.

    I should think that to walk thru this forest would be eerie; like being surrounded by lost souls. O_o Kinda like walking thru Pripyat would be… jfrater, you ought to do an article on Chernobyl and Pripyat. Some of the stuff I’ve read and seen about that place still haunts me; the death of the firemen, the helicopter that melted; the innocent victims who stood on the bridge of death… yes, you definitely should write an article.

  31. 38 Al

    Awsome site, addicted to listverse, nice to find something a bit more twisted. Keep this f@$er alive Yo!

  32. 39 Nobody

    For something so beautiful to house so much death. It’s a beautiful place. And it’s sad that they had to end their lives there.

  33. 40 queenofspades

    scary article but very informative. keep it up! = )

  34. 41 Rini (Reicheru)

    I was looking for a story on this … i saw an actual videos of people taking their lives and it was really close to Aokigahara i hear … the people seemed to be in some kind of trans i guess it goes with the myth huh.??

  35. 42 Richard

    There’s a new comic series by IDW called Suicide Forest, set of 1-4, that has a fictional story based on this forest. Reading the comic set brought me to this site. If you like illustrated stories, it’s an interesting read. I not plugging the comic, just thought I’d pass it along after finding this site.

  36. I’ve been to the forrest on three occasions, and I must say that the photos do nothing close to justice on how surreal this place is. First, it is dark. The trees and canopy are dense and little light gets in. I had to use an electric torch and it was mid-day. Second,the ground is like a mine-field. Bones, decayed and torn clothing,and other debris are everywhere, and ropes hang from nearly every branch in some areas. Finally there is the smell. Japan itself is semi-tropical in many places, and the forrest is warm and has a high humidity, the perfect place for decomposition. On my last trip I found a body that was relatively fresh, and rather than a hanging, he had disembowled himself. The stench is unforgettable. The place has an air of death, even before entering it. However, if you get the chance, go there.

  37. 44 timbo

    You copied this from Wikipedia.

  38. deez pickles


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