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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Call of the Quiet Forest


Aokigahara Forest is a quiet, hauntingly beautiful woodland located in the northwestern base of Mt. Fuji in Japan.
The trees in this forest are so dense they block the sound of the wind; wildlife is also conspicuously absent. The forest is eerily quiet.


For many Japanese, Aokigahara (“Sea of Trees”) is the perfect place to die.

More than five hundred people have chosen this place to commit suicide. Seventy-eight people killed themselves here in 2002; in 2003, the figure climbed to a hundred. 

Local authorities subsequently stopped publicizing the number of bodies found in the forest.
Since 1970, authorities conduct yearly body search. The search party includes volunteers and journalists.

As the forest is dense, nobody knows how many more bodies are left undiscovered.

If you are morbid enough, you can look at pictures at some of the bodies found here (warning: disturbing images).

A writer, Seicho Matsumoto, published a novel entitled “Tower of Wave” in which a couple killed themselves in this forest. People have surmised that the macabre trend began soon after.
But this book did not start the trend of suicide in the death forest; Aokigahara’s connection with suicide started well before the publication of this book. Legend has it that this forest is haunted by angry spirits of those left here to die.


Why did those people chose this place, one might ask. Authorities have no clear explanation, however.

Many of those who died here chose hanging as the way to go, so search parties routinely see corpses high up in trees, swaying, hanging by their necks, like some terrible fruit borne by some terrible tree.

Authorities have now put up signs to dissuade suicide—“Think of Your Family!” reads one. Another says “Life is Precious! Please Reconsider”. 
There are also signs that have contact details for the Suicide Prevention Association. But for a people known for their reticence, many would probably just ignore such proffered help. A number of those who enter Aokigahara Forest to commit suicide—as one visitor speculated—most probably “have never spoken to anyone about their feelings.”

The opening shot of a documentary film about this forest is of an abandoned car on the road near the forest. The car has been there for months, says the narrator. 

The driver, whoever he is, answered the siren call of the Quiet Forest.
   

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