March 12, 2012

Aokigahara - The Forest of Death

Aokigahara, or the Sea of Trees, may at first glance seem like a typical forest bordering the famous Mount Fuji. The inside, however, is a completely different story. Described in Wataru Tsurumui’s book The Manual of Suicides as ”the perfect place to die”, Aokigahara has become the world’s second most popular place to commit suicide, right after the Golden Gate Bridge. Over 500 people have already made their last journey into the woods, with 78 bodies discovered in 2002 alone. The problem has reached such magnitudes that the police have mounted signs in the woods urging visitors to reconsider and to think of their families.

Aokigahara has long been associated with death. Ubasute, the custom of carrying an elderly or infirm relative to a remote location to die, may have been practiced there until the 1800s. Unsurprisingly, the forest is regarded as the most haunted location in Japan, a place where the restless spirits of those who have died in its depths are doomed to howl their suffering forever. It is said that the trees themselves are filled with malevolent energy, seeking to trap unwary wanderers.

As if the deathly and paranormal associations weren’t enough to unnerve a visitor, Aokigahara’s density and lack of wildlife make it eerily dark and quiet. What’s more, large underground iron deposits render compasses all but useless – there may well be some truth to the stories of travelers being lost in its depths.

Even in this haunted forest, forest workers have their jobs to do. It’s not very unusual for them come across a partially decomposed corpse hanging from a branch. When this happens, the body is brought to the station and placed into a room with two beds: one for the body, and one for a worker to sleep in. You see, leaving the body alone would unsettle its lonely spirit, causing it to scream through the whole night and move the corpse to the general sleeping quarters. In true Japanese fashion, the unlucky fellow to receive this task is determined through Jan Ken Pon, which English-speakers call rock, paper, scissors.

Image: mtzn

No comments:

Post a Comment