Have you heard of the world famous "Suicide Forest" in Japan? Check out this article written by Jenny Holt, one of our favorite para-writers:
With the husbands and kids packed off to the sedate Hakone tour including a trip on a pirate ship, views of Mount Fuji (maybe), and the ability to buy puzzle boxes, an old friend and I set off on one of the scariest things you can do in Japan - hiking the Aokigahara forest.
As a fresh faced graduate, I’d found myself travelling for a year eventually leaving me in Nagoya working as an English teacher. While there, I’d made a friend, Fumiko, who was herself, a fresh-faced graduate Japanese teacher at the same school. We soon became friends and have kept in touch ever since. At the time, we shared a love of horror movies and all things scary, so we made a pledge to spend 1 day in Aokigahara, Japan’s most haunted forest. However, we never followed through with it, until now.
The Demon and Ghost Filled Woodlands
It is strange to think a place so foreboding and evil lies so close to Japan’s most iconic image, Mount Fuji, but it aptly demonstrates the hidden terrors of the land. These come in the form of earthquakes, tsunami, typhoons, and volcanoes. Japanese people believe, much like we do, that if a person dies filled with hate, wrath, sadness, desire or revenge, their soul will be unable to leave this world. It is believed that so many people with these feelings have died in Aokigahara that it has soaked into the very fabric of the dense, dark, woodland. They believe it to be filled with demons and other spirits.
We began by dropping the kids and husbands off at Odawara Station for the Hakone Day Tour and then drove around Mount Fuji to get to its northwest side and the town of Fujikawaguchiko. Once there we saw signs of the unease people feel about the forest. People were on hand to try and convince lone hikers not to go in there and take their own lives. This hit us hard because while we’d heard stories, we imagined it to be a lonely business. So many people go to these woods from all over Japan to end their lives.
We stepped in with fear. It was a dull day outside despite being the middle of spring with cherry blossoms all over the place. The first thing which hit me, was the unnerving quietness of the woods. I am much more used to lively places filled with signs of animals and birdsong. It is this stillness which gives you a creeping feeling of being watched. As we stepped deeper into the woods we reflected that between 50 and 100 suicides a year are found in the woods, many more are lost to its deeper areas. Furthermore, in the 19th century and before, locals would carry their elder relatives who they considered a burden, into the woodlands to die of starvation.
Each step felt and each turn felt like it would turn something up - a body, a ghost. It was the most unsettling feeling of my life. We never found anything luckily, but we could both feel the presence of their spirits around us and imagined how haunted it must be; especially at night. The feeling was so overwhelming we could not imagine how it would be in the dark. On the way out, we stumbled across a dirty, sodden copy of Tsurumui Wataru’s book, The Complete Suicide Manual. It’s safe to say that while we have crossed something off our bucket list, we will not be back - even if I have all of my ghost hunting equipment on me.
Preparing for Your Own Hike
The first thing to be aware of is this is genuinely a large, brooding woodland which is easy to get lost in and is home to a huge number of suicides each year. There is a real and possible chance you will come across a body, so this hike is not for the faint hearted or those easily upset. It is also possible you might stumble upon someone preparing to end their lives.
Aside from this, you need good quality hiking gear and if you can transport it to Japan, some ghost detecting equipment as laid out in my last blog post. As I was travelling in a foreign country and on vacation with my family, I kept my equipment to a minimum. For example, I made a rudimentary first aid kit from things bought in a FamilyMart convenience store - band aids, a bottle of water, batteries for my headlamp, matches, etc… my friend brought her knife and multi-tool. To save space, I wore a specifically designed outdoor watch with gps, a heart-rate monitor, and it synced with my Google Fit app. I did bring hiking boots with me, a packable mac in case it rained, and my friend brought a spare set of hiking poles to make walking easier.
Getting There and Away
Aokigahara sits in the foothills of Mount Fuji and is close to the town of Fujikawaguchiko in Minamitsuru District. Getting to Aokigahara involves a few different trainlines, but from central Tokyo take the Chuo line as far as Takao station before switching to the Shiojiri line to get to Otsuki. From there the Fujikyuko line will take you to Fujikawaguchiko. It’s a bit complex, but if you have a friend or an international driver’s license, it’s much quicker by car once you get close.
Brian Webb is the founder and creator of GhostQuest.net: