No need to go all the way to Middle Earth.
A dark and foreboding forest. Legends of ghosts and demonic terrors creeping across a windless, dying expanse of diseased trees. People summoned by some invisible force who willingly embrace their mortal end; all-too-often, never to be seen again.
Sound like Peter Jackson potty-spank material? Not at all…it’s actually a forest in Japan near the base of Mt. Fuji (affectionately known as Aokigahara….the “Sea of Trees” in their ugly and incomprehensible tongue). And Aokigahara isn’t just your typical creepy forest…it’s the site of over 500 suicides over the last 30 years (and about 4,000 attempts as well as over 200 missing persons reports).
Aokigahara's a great alternative for weight loss.
In Japanese mythology (with 1,000 year old poems mentioning the accursed forest), Aokigahara has always been associated with demonic possession and suicide. Ancient manuscripts tell of lovesick Samurai slicing open their bellies while suffering the insurmountable pain of unrequited love amongst the grove of gnarly Japanese Cypress and Red Pines. There are also countless tales of men driven mad by demons who entered the forest seeking hapless campers (and lovers) to devour. In 1960, a very depressed Seicho Matsumoto wrote a novel (Nami no To) about lovers who kill themselves in the forest rather than risk spending their lives apart. The book was a hit…and inspired many to enter fine literature as a college course of study; unfortunately, it also motivated upwards of 4000+ people to try and repeat the events of the novel….a healthy portion of those successfully managing to do so in utterly grim fashion.
Loitering is a crime sir.
To be fair, suicide is almost the national pasttime of Japan. The country suffers from the highest suicide rate amongst industrialized nations….but the fact that so many do so in this natural preserve has baffled experts for decades. Perhaps part of it can be attributed to the forest itself: despite being in an idyllic location, the surrounding mountains and density of vegetation prevent almost all wind movement within the woods. There are also very few animals to be found in Aokigahara (likely due to a mixture of environmental factors and a history of reckless over-hunting). So, any lengthy hike into the forest is likely to be met with the grim discovery of a decayed corpse strung up among the cracked tree limbs (not only is suicide popular here, but hanging and poisoning are almost exclusively the methods of choice mirroring the fate of the famed novel’s desperate lovers).
Aokigahara: A good place to hang around
In fact, dead bodies are so common in Aokigahara, that a whole cottage industry has spawned around people making their living scavenging the dead (stealing money and personal items from the myriad of corpses across the 35km forest of pain). Local police have started creating roaming extraction teams to both clear out the bodies prior to any blasphemous scavenging…and also to help dissuade those who have traveled there with the intent of slipping the soily bonds of earth. Less successful has been the “warning sign” campaign trying to educate the suicidal masses that “their corpse will be excreted by a bear” (yes, that’s really a sign).
The forest is so infamous, that even douche-addled SyFy shows like Destination Truth and Ghost Hunters International have scoured Aokigahara looking for demons (or more likely, the souls of the mournfully departed). In both cases, the shows recorded a record amount of EVP and photographic evidence which seemed to hint that the phantasmal forces associated with Aokigahara may indeed be true.
So, when you next find yourselves taking bong hits from the barrel of a shotgun while mulling a fitting (and explosive) end to your very lives, plan a trip instead. And go enjoy Japan’s very own Mirkwood Forest. If you’re lucky, a bear will poop out your remains somewhere quiet and dignified….a fitting resting place for any professional.