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Aokigahara - Suicide forest

It isn't like me to post something creepy and sad with pretty much no hint of "cool" or "funny." But this is bizarrely riveting, and, initially, scary enough to make "The Blair Witch Project" look like the silly little joke that it is. As the clip's info explains: "The Aokigahara Forest is the most popular site for suicides in Japan. After the novel Kuroi Jukai was published, in which a young lover commits suicide in the forest, people started taking their own lives there at a rate of 50 to 100 deaths a year."


So. These are two segments of a short Japanese TV documentary, each about 10 minutes. (Warning: not highly graphic, but certainly disturbing content.)

When I watched the first section -
- I was mostly just creeped out.

But after moving on and watching the second section -
- I settled down to a general sadness, and a great fondness for the kindly geologist with this strange and vital job of sweeping the forest to prevent suicides when he can, and find the ones he couldn't prevent.

Since we're on the subject, I'd like to share the wise words of Ed Chigliak from "Northern Exposure":
"Suicide's not the Indian way. Don't go where you're not invited. Know what I mean?"
A good rule. Make it yours too, my friends.

Edit: For further reading, this blogger traveled to Aokigahara and wrote a detailed account of his journey, complete with some photos and videos. A very chilling and sobering place indeed, and a brave traveler.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 2nd, 2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
A quote (from memory, may not be precise) from a Zenna Henderson book that I've always loved: one of the characters describes suicide as "going back into the Presence with the weight of unfinished years dragging at your feet".

I like it because it conveys the sense of sorrow and loss, the waste of time that was gifted to the person, all the things that they could have been and weren't; but it never doubts that they will, indeed, be back in the Presence.
Jun. 4th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC)
(Oh hai LJ, finally notifying me about these comments!)

Ah, powerful quote. I agree with it, and yeah, I never liked the idea of assigning suicides straight to hell (whether or not one believes in the existence of hell). That doesn't seem fair, for although suicide is definitely a bad policy, it's an act that calls for some compassion.
Jun. 2nd, 2011 11:36 pm (UTC)
This is very interesting.
Jun. 3rd, 2011 04:33 am (UTC)
That was fascinating; thanks for posting. The protagonist is sort of an anti-Grim Reaper in people's lives, appearing when they are at the end of their tethers and trying to guide them gently back into this world.

Everything in these documentary snippets breathes of otherworldliness to me. I am a huge pushover for the trope of the forest that is the bridge between this world and the afterlife/Otherworld (the Narnia books, the dark wood in the Divine Comedy, the cedar forest of Humbaba in the Epic of Gilgamesh) and this is more unsettling than any of those places.

Every single detail is so much like a ghost story writer's invention that you couldn't put it in fiction without people saying, "Oh come now, surely that wouldn't happen?" The crucified doll, the strips of plastic tape leading off into the woods, the nooses dangling from the trees. The sheer fact that the place exists at all. Even allowing for sensationalism on the part of the documentary makers, it's pretty extreme.

I may have to link to these myself, with the same warnings, of course.
Jun. 4th, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
*nod nod* Anti-Grim-Reaper, or some kind of angel in human form, is what came to mind for me as well, with that compassionate man. I want to hug him.

And yeah, the mythology fan and spooky-story-writer in me couldn't help thinking, "The forest is making them do it!!" But that isn't true, of course; and the truth is much sadder and more disturbing.

As I was remarking to someone on Facebook, I've sensed beautiful nature's flip side of uncaring death before, and have marveled at it before (deep, dense, gorgeous forests in which you could get lost and starve are a great example), but this is the first I've heard of an actual freaking suicide forest. Yikes. I hope that particular activity loses its popularity there, to be replaced by something healthier like, I don't know, hiking.
Jun. 5th, 2011 03:44 am (UTC)
I hope so, too.

It's like the physical-location equivalent of "Gloomy Sunday", which became known as the Suicide Song because of a legend that people who listened to it would become suicidal. I think that became a self-fulfilling prophecy, where people would seek it out before killing themselves.

You know the little calculating part of a writer's brain which stands back, even from the most horrible events, and goes, "I could use this in a story"? That's happening to me; I'm looking at all that atmosphere and thinking about stories I could set in the suicide forest. It's a cold-blooded thing but that's what's running through my mind.
Jun. 6th, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
Yep, my writer brain totally did the same thing here. It's so morbidly fascinating, one can't help it. But I don't think I'll actually use this material unless I can find a way to make it more fun and less dark, because at the moment it's very, very dark. Plenty of writers are willing to dive into that much darkness, but I'd freak myself out if I tried. I need a stronger vein of humor running through the plot. Maybe if I think about it long enough I'll find a black-comedy angle, but I doubt it. Still, that geologist deserves to be immortalized as a hero! (Of fiction, that is. He already is one in real life, in a quiet way.)
Feb. 21st, 2012 09:21 am (UTC)
Hey there, I thought I’d comment as I recently visited Aokigahara forest and spent 6 hours exploring it with two friends and three cameras. I compiled most of the video footage + photos along with bits and pieces from my journal to construct the story of my experience there. Please check it out and let me know what you think! (follow the link)
Feb. 22nd, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Aokigahara
Thank you! That's a great and chilling travelogue. I hadn't learned about some of the legends and beliefs surrounding the forest before. I'll edit this post to add a link to your post for those who might be interested. You're very brave to have gone in there and explored. Much as I love forests, I'm not sure I would venture in that one.
Feb. 23rd, 2012 01:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Thought I'd let you know I added 5 more videos, they're all very creepy!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )