At the foot of Mount Fuji, the highest mountain peak in Japan, sprawls a 30 square kilometer forest called Aokigahara.
More commonly referred to as the Sea of Trees, Aokigahara is a forest of unbridled beauty and serenity. Upon entering the region, one must wade through a thicket of trees, slipping over the knotted roots and rocks, to access amazing vantage points to view Mount Fuji and explore hidden icy caverns.
In the forest, one is also completely shrouded in darkness – save for the sporadic stream of sunlight from gaps in the treetops – and experiences an overwhelming silence, pressing in from all sides.
As such, it’s a perfect place for solitude and reflection and correspondingly, is the perfect place to die. At least according to the 100 people who commit suicide here every year.
Aokigahara has always been dogged with morbid myths and legends. It is widely believed that the Japanese custom of ubasute, where an elderly relative is left to die in a remote location, was widely practiced in the forest.
Aside from tales of ubasute, rumors of demons and hauntings in the forest are also pervasive. The more recent tag of the “Suicide Forest” began to dog the region after tourists began to encounter decomposing bodies in Aokigahara in the 1950s. Since the early 1970s, a small army of police, volunteers and journalists annually scour the area in search of bodies.