Aokigahara: Japan’s Haunted Forest of Death

Located at the base of Mt. Fuji, Aokigahara is perhaps the most infamous forest in all of Japan. Also known as the Sea of Trees, Suicide Forest, and Japan’s Demon Forest, Aokigahara has been home to over 500 confirmed suicides since the 1950s. Called “the perfect place to die,” Aokigahara is the world’s second most popular place for suicide (the Golden Gate Bridge being the first).

A Horrifying Legend is Born

Legend says that this all started after Seicho Matsumoto published a novel by the name of Kuroi Kaiju (Black Sea of Trees) in 1960. The story ends with two lovers committing suicide in the forest, so many people believe that’s what started it all. However, the history of suicide in Aokigahara predates the novel, and the place has long been associated with death. Hundreds upon hundreds of Japanese people have hanged themselves from the trees of Aokigahara forest.

Wataru Tsurumui’s controversial 1993 bestseller, The Complete Suicide Manual, is a book that describes various modes of suicide and even recommends Aokigahara as the perfect place to die. Apparently this book is also a common find in the forest, usually not too far away from a suicide victim and their belongings. Undoubtedly, the most common method of suicide in the forest is hanging.

Japan’s suicide rate is already bad enough as it is, and having this forest and suicide manual on top of it all is pretty terrible. It’s really sad. Despite many efforts to prevent suicide and provide help to those considering it, Japan’s suicide rate continues to rise.

Legend has it that in ancient times families would abandon people in the forest during periods of famine when there was not enough food to go around. By sacrificing family members to the forest, there would be less mouths to feed and therefore enough food for the rest of the family. Those abandoned in the forest would die long, horrible, drawn out deaths due to starvation. Because of that, Aokigahara is also said to be haunted by the souls of these abandoned people.

In addition, there are many other ghost and demon stories associated with the forest. It is said that these ghastly spirits glide between the trees with their white, shifting forms being occasionally spotted by unsuspecting visitors out of the corners of their eyes.

Japanese spiritualists believe that the suicides committed in the forest have permeated Aokigahara’s soil and trees, generating paranormal activity and preventing many who enter from escaping the gnarled depths of the forest. Aokigahara is not the kind of place you’d want to honeymoon at, that’s for sure.

Terrifying Topography

The vast forest covers a 3,500 hectare wide area and the tree coverage in Aokigahara is so thick that even at high noon it’s entirely possible to find places shrouded in complete darkness. It’s also mostly devoid of animals and is eerily quiet. Hearing a bird chirping in the forest is incredibly rare. The area is rocky, cold, and littered with over 200 caves for you to accidentally fall into.

The discomforting forest is known for the thickness of its trees, its twisting network of woody vines, and the dangerous unevenness of the forest floor. All of this together gives the place a very unwelcoming feeling.

Personally, I love hiking and I think the forest actually looks really pretty during the daytime. However, I think the place would turn absolutely horrifying come nightfall. Who knows when you’ll trip over some snarled root or jagged rock, fall down a hill and land on top of a pile of bones or a rotting corpse. No nighttime hiking in Aokigahara for me, thanks.

Further compounding the creepiness factor is the common occurrence of compasses, cell phones, and GPS systems being rendered useless by the rich deposits of magnetic iron in the area’s volcanic soil. I’m sure this fact has helped propagate the legend of the forest’s demonic habit of trapping visitors within it.

Besides bodies and homemade nooses, also scattered around the forest are signs put up by the police with messages like “Your life is a precious gift from your parents,” and “Please consult with the police before you decide to die,” in an attempt to discourage would be committers of suicide. Judging from the increasing number of suicides, these signs probably aren’t all that effective.

An Unfortunate Suicide Hotspot

By the 1970s the suicides had become so infamous that the Japanese government started to do annual sweeps of the forest to search for and clear out the bodies. In 2002, 78 bodies were found within the forest, exceeding the previous record of 74 in 1998. By 2003, the rate had climbed to 100.

In recent years, the local government has stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to downplay Aokigahara’s association with suicide. In 2004, 108 people killed themselves in the forest and in 2010, 247 people attempted suicide, 54 of whom succeeded. But that’s just the number they found and reported. Who knows how many more there are that just go undiscovered?

I’m actually pretty surprised that I hadn’t heard about Aokigahara until just recently. You’d think that something like this, being the number two hotspot for suicides in the world, and located right at the base of Mt. Fuji, would be more well known. Maybe it’s just me.

Its Effect on the Locals

Nearly as unfortunate as the suicides themselves is the impact the suicides have on the locals and forest workers. One local man says, “It bugs the hell out of me that the area’s famous for being a suicide spot.” A local police officer said, “I’ve seen plenty of bodies that have been really badly decomposed, or been picked at by wild animals. There’s nothing beautiful about dying in there.” It’s really a shame that such a unique and interesting forest has become sullied by so many suicides.

The forest workers have it even worse than the police who comb and investigate the forest. The workers are tasked with the job of carrying the bodies down from the forest to the local station, where the bodies are put in a special room used specifically to house suicide corpses. The forest workers then play janken to see who has to sleep in the room with the corpse. Talk about terrible.

The reason for these strange sleeping arrangements is that it is believed if the corpse is left alone, it’s very bad luck for the ghost of the suicide victim. Their spirits are said to scream throughout the night if left alone, and their bodies will get up and shuffle around, searching for company.

I don’t know about you, but this sounds like one of the absolute worst ways to spend a night. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the body is just like a pile of bones, but I can’t imagine how creepy it would be to sleep in a dinky little room with a fresh corpse as a roommate.

To make matters worse, a few years back people started to scavenge the forest for valuables. And by this I mean that people would search the forest for dead bodies and then loot their corpses. Talk about disrespectful, not to mention creepy.

Suicide Forest Documentary

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FDSdg09df8']

I also found this awesome video about one of the guys who regularly goes on suicide prevention patrols in Aokigahara. It’s really interesting and definitely worth a watch if you have twenty minutes to spare.

Like I said before, the suicide rate of Japan is one of the highest in the world and really shows no sign of decreasing despite government measures to discourage it. That being said, I don’t really see Aokigahara becoming less of a suicide hotspot anytime soon.

Destination Truth

Aokigahara was also featured on an episode of SyFy’s Destination Truth series because of how famous the place is for being haunted. Unfortunately, you can only view the episode online with Hulu+ (link to the episode here). I signed up for the free trial just to watch the episode, but it’s nothing special.

It’s pretty much just what you’d expect from a paranormal investigation show. Americans getting lost in the woods at night, seeing things in the shadows, and hearing whispers in the night. The best part about the episode is seeing what the place looks like at nighttime, and how easy it is to get lost there.


So, what are your thoughts on Aokigahara, undoubtedly one of the creepiest places in Japan? Would you want to visit and explore the forest, or would it be too scary? Would you be willing to camp overnight in the forest if someone dared you? Have you even heard of this place before? Let us know in the comments!


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Sites Referenced:
Environmental Grafitti
Atlas Obscura
Aokigahara Wikipedia

  • annamarie

    ken you really have some issues, obviously you are an atheist. god does exist, if he didnt you wouldnt have come here talking smack to others. grow up

  • annamarie

    julie, i really feel sorry for you. pity your parents didnt take you to church and teach you about god’s love and your very own creation. nuff said.

  • Janis Joplin

    Wounds may not be apparent, due to decomposition or animal activity……….it would depend on when they find the body and if any damage was caused to the bones. The thing about it is, that the city there is already absorbing the costs of deposing of the bodies and with the amounts they have found, they are most likely racking up a hefty bill………..I really doubt they can do autopsies on all the bodies…..(but who knows?)

  • JANIS JOPLIN

    That’s not nice, Dave =((

  • JANIS JOPLIN

    ………………………………………If I go to visit the Aokigahara Forest and check it out, I’ll be taking NASA with me!!! . . . . . . . . . . . This is all so seriously sad to me, that those people shown in pictures had come to such desperation in their life. This has been on my mind for a couple of days (since I read about it) Such a fantastically beautiful forest, yet so mysterious and eerie………….So MUCH history, and so many stories and secrets dwell there, in “The Sea of Trees”. It’s all very thought provoking!

  • JANIS JOPLIN

    PSALMS 83:18

  • JANIS JOPLIN

    How C@@L……….You climbed Mt. FUJI =))

  • JANIS JOPLIN

    KEN, somehow I don’t think you have a say in the matter =))

  • Timothy Barton Jr.

    I’d stay a week if I were rich lol

  • lucy brenndant

    it really intrigues me , the forest . I was told of it by my father when I was eight and since its became a fascination of mine . Its plagued by sadness , when it deserves to have enough respect for the people who die within its clutches . after all , they did what they feel they needed to .. RIP to everyones who has or will die in that forest .. Its certainly on my bucket list to visit and pay my respects to the deceased

  • general777@hawaii.rr.com

    Stop taking the drugs from medical pimps, find another way. Don’t take the easy way out lightly.

  • general777@hawaii.rr.com

    He is just a troll, not worth an electron

  • general777@hawaii.rr.com

    How are you going to set someone on fire if they are hanging from a tree? just sounds racist to me, but please explain.

  • general777@hawaii.rr.com

    God doesnt mean just Christian, open your mind.

  • William Sanders

    I want to go there. I want to walk in the Shadows. Converse with the Spirits of The Forest. Hear Their point of view on the whole Human suicide thing.
    Feel the atmosphere. And possibly, talk to one of the Dead. Find out the reason for doing it. And possibly an answer to the question “Was it worth it?”
    Can I talk to the Dead? Dunno. But I am willing to try. I’ve spent time in places people were killed, and in a place a friend killed himself. Never attempted to talk or otherwise communicate with them. Just spent time there, feeling things, and imagining what it was like while they were there. I think it may be possible to communicate.

  • William Sanders

    I’ve talked with some Forests. Others are silent. The forests in Colorado are, for the most part, silent and have a sullen, Fuck Humans, attitude. The deeper you get, farther away from civilization, the more the forest is willing to talk. Wilderness forests in Alaska and Canada, are chatterboxes to those that can listen. Forests in Europe are quiet, yet are willing to talk. And don’t dislike humans as much as other places. All are deadly to those entering unprepared. The forest will not actively help you survive. But they do talk. To those of us that know how to listen.

  • William Sanders

    Can I talk to the forest at Aokigahara? I don’t know. It is, as far as I know, a natural forest. So it likely has several thousand voices, much like those in North America. But, as I’ve never been there, I am not sure I could understand the voices. The ones in Europe were hard to hear and understand, at first. I’m betting that Aokigahara would be similar.

  • spookycute33

    I would have loved to have made it there while I was in Japan. I have been fascinated with the stories from there for some time now. Although I’m a rather big Destination Truth fan, the episode in the forest has always been one of my favorites! Great read :)

  • stationone123

    Eerie photo. The Golden Gate bridge holds the number one title for
    suicides. I respect these people who kill themselves, because they should pick a
    location like the Golden Gate due to cleanliness. There is talks about the
    Golden Gate bridge getting nets—-that would make the bridge look stupid. It’s
    a beautiful bridge and should be left alone as a place for those to go to enjoy
    or die. These suiciders will just shoot themselves in a house where the poor
    home owners insurance has to lose money cleaning up and the neighbors have to
    tolerate the odor and so foth and so forth. Let me toss in some advice—-we all
    die. Doesn’t have to be today.

  • stationone123

    I heard a rumor that a guy tried impressing his girlfriend and took her out here on Halloween. He brought about 200 yards of string tied from a tree so that they wouldn’t get lost and somehow the string was cut. They managed to make their way out; hit by a foul smell of death. They never went back.

  • sarajean1982

    NIm sorry you have to suffer withthis condition. But please don’t take your life. Aneffective medication can come along. if you need to talk to someone call 1800 suicide or talk to a friend, family member, or therapist. your life is valuable.

  • Draganica

    I’ve heard that most people kill there..