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AOKIGAHARA 青木ヶ原


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

Contents �� 2.

Introduction

24, 26

Jikiniki

4.

Death Culture

28.

Muso Kokushi

6.

Sea of Trees

30, 32.

Yuki-Onna

8.

Suicide Forest

34.

Minokicki & Mosaku

10.

Purgatory 36, 38.

Noppera- Bo

38.

O-Jochu

40-46.

Experiences

48, 44.

Investigations

50.

Myth & Method

52.

Suicide in Japan

12, 14. Shinigami 16.

Death Note

18, 20. Yurei 22.

Harumi & Katsuo


aokigahara 殺森林

Aokigahara forest is located at the base of Mount.Fuji, It is the most infamous forest in Japan. Also known as the Sea of Trees, Suicide Forest, and Japan’s Demon Forest. Aokigahara is home to over 500 confirmed suicides since the 1950s. Often called ‘the perfect place to die,’ Aokigahara forest is the world’s second most popular place for committing suicide.

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伝 統 は 日 本 で の 生 活 の 重 要 な 部 分 で す

そ れ は 何 千 年 も の 間 に 保 た な け れ ば な ら な い よ う に 貴 重 な も の で す

そ れ は 上 に 渡 す 必 要 が あ り ま す

世 代 か ら 世 代 へ

文 化 が 見 え な い 結 合 を 形 成 す る こ と が で き る

や 地 域 社 会 を 強 く 保 つ

Death culture 死の文化

In Shinto practices and beliefs, our world, the world of the living, is known as Konoyo (the world over here) and the world where the spirits of the dead dwell is known as Anoyo (the world over there). While there is a word for a middle ground between the worlds (Sonoyo), in most versions of Shinto this place does not exist, so a spirit of the dead is either located in the Konoyo or the Anoyo. When a person dies and the proper death rites/practices are performed it can take his/her spirit up to 49 days to make the journey to the world of the dead unless the spirit of the recently deceased feels that it has unfinished obligations or desires in the living world where the spirit can appear as a ghost until it’s issues are resolved in a proper manner. Anoyo is supposed to be a final destination, but it’s very flexible in it’s location and proximity to the world of the living. In the past, when someone was asked to describe the location of Anoyo they would say it lay, beyond those mountains, beyond that forest, or beyond that river. So, in affect, while the world of the dead was separate from the living world, it really lay just beyond our grasp, but still nearby. Aokigahara is place for unfinished business. The souls are lost, and cannot move on to the after life. They haunt the forest relentlessly, and the vast forest is sometimes known as the ‘black sea of trees’.


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‘The world of the dead was separate from the living world, it really lay just beyond our grasp’.

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SEA OF TREES 樹海

Aokigahara is a dense dark forest that was formed over volcanic rock from when the Mountain Fuji-san last errupted. The forest is the second most popular place on earth for suicide, with on average 50 deaths per year. In 1960, Seicho Matsumoto published a novel by the name of Kuroi Kaiju, which means the ‘Black Sea of Trees’ in Japanese. The story ends with a pair of lovers both who commit suicide in the forest, and there are so many people that believe this is what started it all. However, the history of suicide in the forest predates the novel, and it has long been associated with death. Hundreds upon hundreds of Japanese people have hanged themselves from the trees of the forest. In 1993, Wataru Tsurumui published a book called, The Complete Suicide Manual. The book describes various methods of suicide, and even recommends going into Aokigahara. Apparently this book is a common find in the forest, usually not too far away from a suicide victim and their belongings. Undoubtedly, the most well known method of suicide inside the forest is hanging. Despite many efforts to prevent suicide, and providing help to all those considering it, Japan’s high suicide rate continues to rise. In ancient times, families would abandon people in the forest during periods of famine when there was not enough food for them to live off. It was thought 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 who were abandoned in the forest would die long, horrible, drawn out deaths due to starvation. Aokigahara is said to be haunted by the souls of these abandoned people. Along with the souls, according to traditioanl Japanese families, the forest is said to be haunted by many other paranormal entities.

‘Despite many efforts to prevent suicide, and to provide help to those considering it, Japan’s high suicide rate continues to rise’.


The forest covers a massive 3,500 hectare wide area, and the tree coverage inside the Aokigahara is so thick, that even at high noon it’s entirely possible to find places covered in complete darkness. There are small amounts of animals and it is always eerily quiet. The area is rocky, cold, and littered with over 200 caves. The 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. 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’. These are meant to discourage the people contemplating suicide. Yet, judging from the increasing number of suicides, these signs aren’t all that effective.In addition to this, there are many other ghost and demon stories associated with the forest. It is said by the Japanese people that these spirits glide between the trees with shifting forms, sometimes being seen by unsuspecting, innocent visitors. A lot of Japanese spiritualists now believe that the suicides committed in the forest have permeated most of the soil and trees, which is the reason for paranormal activity, and this prevents many who enter from escaping the gnarled depths of Aokigahara forest.

青 木 ヶ 原 樹 海

木 々 の 海

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suicide forest 殺森林

By the 1970s, suicides had become so famous 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, which exceeded the previous record of 74 in 1998. By 2003, the rate had climbed to 100. In more recent years, the local government has stopped publicizing the statistics in attempts to reduce Aokigahara’s negative association with suicide and death. In 2004, over 108 people killed themselves in the forest and in 2010, 247 people attempted suicide, 54 of whom succeeded. But they are just the number that have been found and reported. Who knows how many more there are that go undiscovered in the forest The forest workers have it even worse than the police do, they are the ones that have to search through. They have a tough job of carrying the bodies down from the trees and to the nearby police station. The bodies are then put in a special room, that is used to house the corpses. The workforce are said to play a game called ‘janken’ just to see who has to sleep in the room with the corpse. All of the suicide bodies are put in a special room, used only to house suicide corpses. The forest workers are said to then play ‘janken’ to see who has to sleep in the room with the corpse. The given 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 wildly throughout the night if left alone, and their bodies get up and move around, searching for company. This derives from some of the more traditional Japanese thoughts on the forest. It is said that a Yurei haunts the forest, and draws in passers and the souls of the dead to keep her company.

‘The spirits are said to scream throughout the night if left alone, and their bodies get up and move around, searching for company.’

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purgatory 殺森林 Aokigahara is considered the most haunted location in Japan. Dubbed the “Purgatory of Yurei”. Hikers have often seen apparitions as well as heard the howl of Yurei on the wind. Some have reported objects moving and seeing shadows amongst the trees. Japanese spiritualists say that the trees themselves are filled with a malevolent energy, accumulated from decades of suicides. They try to prevent you from getting back out. They say if you look hard at the trees, you can see the faces of the dead in the bark. Today, the forest is littered with colored tape used by walkers to find their way among the trees as well as discarded items and nooses. They are used to the suicide of its recent victims and bouquets of flowers left by grieving friends and family members. Exactly why so many choose to end their lives in the forest remains something of a mystery, though it has been suggested that the first among them were inspired by a novel set there. Azusa Hayano has studied and tended to the forest for more than 30 years. Even he cannot make sense of the trend.

‘Clues left among the trees can indicate what went through a person’s mind in the moments before they took their own life... the possessions they leave behind are often signs of distress and indecision’.


Mr Hayano is faced with the tought task of finding suicide victims, or stepping in when he finds those for whom it is not too late to turn back. Mr Hanayo roughly estimates that he alone has stumbled across almost more than 100 bodies in the past 20 years. He recently took a film crew deep inside the site known as ‘Jukai’; to share what he has learned. He says that he does not know why Aokigahara in particular is so popular for the deaths, but he has great understanding of those that do chose this option.

In the documentary, he tells the filming crew how clues left among the trees can indicate what went through a person’s mind in the moments before they took their own life. His interest in death and despair may seem to stem from morbid fascination, but as the film rolls on it becomes clear that this softly-spoken, pensive man acts out of a desire to understand and prevent these tragedies. Though the footage includes disturbing stills of bodies found dangling in the forest, perhaps equally chilling are the possessions they leave behind, often signs of distress and indecision. The film opens with a car abandoned on the edge of the forest, a road map lying open on its front seat. Mr Hayano tells the camera it has been there for months. ‘I’m assuming the owner of the car entered from here and never came out,’ he says. ‘I guess they went into the forest with troubled thoughts.’ Once inside, the crew passes a sign urging would-be suicide victims to think again. Positioned where a public trail turns into a cordoned-off area, for many it is the point of no return. Despite the alarming number of people who seem deaf to the pleas of the warning signs outside Aokigahara, there are those who change their minds. Unsure of whether they are ready to die, they often unravel coloured tape behind them, using it like a breadcrumb trail to guide them back to safety.‘In most cases if you follow the tape you find something at the end, Either you find a dead body or you find traces that someone was there.’ At the end of one such trail, Mr Hayano finds a makeshift camp of tarpaulin and empty tents - evidence, he says, of hesitation. Though he finds no bodies there, a doll nailed to a tree is the remnant of a desperate episode. Suspended upside down with its faced torn off, it is not a prank, says Mr Hayano, but a curse. ‘I think this person was tortured by society,’ he says. Other finds includes a note nailed to a tree, a ‘suicide manual’ and a number of nooses. At one point, Mr Hayano spots a yellow tent pitched in the middle of a public trail. Inside is a young man who claims to be camping. But Mr Hayano, who tells the crew of the time he persuaded a man not hang himself, knows a suicidal person when he sees one. After a friendly, potentially life-saving exchange, he tells the supposed camper: ‘Take your time to think. Be positive.’ However, one final find confirms that there is simply no saving some people. The discovery of a human skeleton, still in clothes and boots, makes for a grisly end to the film. Mr Hayano, for all his familiarity with death, appears to be shaken. His job has given him a unique perspective on those who kill themselves. For him, suicide in Japan has changed over the years. Whereas it was once the preserve of samurai, who would commit ritual ‘harakiri’ to preserve their honour, today it is merely a mark of social isolation in the modern world. ‘I think it’s impossible to die heroically by committing suicide,’ he says. Mr Hayano believes it is a symptom of an increasingly impersonal and lonely way of life that emerged with the internet. He adds: ‘Now we can live our lives being online all day. However, the truth of the matter is we still need to see each other’s faces, read their expressions, hear their voices so we can fully understand their emotions - to coexist.’

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SHINIGAMI 死神

The word Shinigami means ‘death god’. The Shinigami are gods that invite humans towards death, or induce feelings of wanting to die in humans. It is commonly applied to concepts in Japanese religion, wether it is traditional folk religion, or popular culture. A shinigami is the western equivalent of The Grim Reaper. They are typically shown as dark spirits, that are cloaked and skeletal. They harvest souls of the dead, transporting them to the other side for judgement. There are three main Shinigami that appear in folklore, these being Rinne, Tamako and Ageha. Their sizes go from as little as a five-year-old child to a giant twice the size of the average adult human. Shinigami worlds are often seen as purgatory, but they reside in a place called Seireitei, which in english means ‘The court of Souls’. This area is off limits to non-shinigami who live in the human realm, unless they gain special permission which rarely occurs. Shinigami are said to be the souls of humans that were poor, violent, or bad people, and they come from a place called Rukongai - The Realm of Wondering Spirits. Shinigami are divided amongst the 13 divisions and ranked according to their knowledge, skill, and overall strength. Those who have exemplified themselves to be exceptional in any of these categories are given the opportunity to receive a promotion to officer positions. Movement between the Shinigami Realm and the human world is very limited and closely monitored. However, some shinigami are stationed on earth for extended periods of time in order to perform their responsibilities.

‘Shinigami are typ


Shinigami are spoken about in folk religion often, but they may not always go under this title. According to Miyajima Kumamoto, they come only at night, to those that ignore the tradition of eating rice and drinking tea before going to sleep. In the Hamamatsu area of Japan, a Shinigami is often believed to possess people, and try to lead them into nearby mountains, caves and dark forests, where people had recently died. In these places, they would have something called a ‘death turn’ or a Shiniban in english, and as long as there is nobody to die there next, the souls would stay there and would never pass on. This meant that the shinigami had invited them into the place of death, and therefore their service was complete. In Okayama, there is a traditional act called a ‘Higan’. During noon, or when the sun sets you cannot visit the graves of the dead, as you will be possessed by an evil Shinigami. However, if you do visit during this time, you would have to visit at sunrise also, to cleanse the body from the Shinigami. With all the backgrounds and folk beliefs surrounding Shinigam, they have different imagesand meanings in modern Japan. Since the 18th and 19th Century, the Shinigami has been a popular premise for many Japanese films and tv shows. Each one has a different take on the Shinigami, but mostly the basic ideas and principals stay the same. They are very popular with Japanese Anime and Manga, with many stories having their own version of the Shinigami.

pically shown as dark spirits, that are cloaked and skeletal.’ 12


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

SHINIGAMI: COntinued 死神 Shinigami can vary widely in appearance, and their bodies can be built in ways that would seem impossible to humans. Although some Shinigami do not appear to have limbs, all Shinigami are able to hold and write with a pen in order to use their Death Note. Shinigami are capable of flight and can use their wings as a mode of transportation, especially in the Human World. When their wings are not in use, they retract them into their backs. Shinigami can be either male or female, but humans cannot easily tell which Shinigami are male and which Shinigami are female, although Shinigami know each others gender just by instinct. While Shinigami possess senses of taste similar to those of humans, they do not need to eat food. This is because their organs have rotted to the point where they can no longer gain nutrition from what they consume. In addition, Shinigami do not need to sleep and will not die from a lack of sleep. They can materialize and dematerialize their bodies at will, and are capable of walking through walls and other objects. The only humans that will see this phenomenon are the ones who have touched a Death Note, as this allows you to see the Shinigami in which the note belongs to. Physical attacks are useless against a Shinigami, therefore attacking one with something such as a gun will have no affect; the bullets will go right through them. The Shinigami King rules and governs all Shinigami, and controls all distribution of each and every Death Note given to all Shinigami upon their creation. Apart from this, it is unknown what other tasks he performs. Shinigami have rankings, with the Shinigami King as having the highest ranking.

‘Physical attacks are useless against a Shinigami, therefore attacking one with something such as a gun will have no affect; the bullets will go right through them.’


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They have an unknown number of laws that they follow. It is unknown who creates these laws, as well as who enforces them. If a Shinigami breaks a law, the Shinigami will face one of 9 punishment levels. The severity is least at Level 9 and most at Level 1, and a Shinigami will die if anythingabove Level 3 is applied to him or her. Another level more severe than the rest, this is called ‘Extreme Level’. Shinigami may not kill a human in any manner outside of using a Death Note, and doing so merits ‘Extreme Level’ punishment. However, there isn’t many details on what this actually means for the Shinigami.

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DEATH NOTE デスノート

The main thing all Shinigami have in common is the Death Note they carry. This notebook allows them to end the lives of humans before their time, adding the human’s remaining lifespan to their own. This means that a Shinigami can extend their lives indefinitely. To assist in this, their eyes allow them to see the names and remaining lifespans of humans by seeing the faces of their victims. They are able to give Shinigami Eyes to the human they posess, in exchange for half of that humans remaining lifespan. For example, if a human has 40 more years to live, they will lose 20 years of their life in order to recieve the Shinigami Eyes. The twenty years the human loses are given to the Shinigami that they are making the trade with.

‘When a Death Note is dropped in the Human World, humans who pick up the notebook may use that Death Note to kill others.’ All Shinigami must possess at least one Death Note, a necessity to extend their lives. Should they manage to come across a second book, it should be returned to the Shinigami King. When a Death Note is dropped inside the Human World, humans who pick up the notebook may use that Death Note to kill others. If a notebook ever reaches the human world and is picked up by a human, the Shinigami would become attached to the human that has their Death Note until they die or the Death Note is willingly given back. A shinigami can explain the purpose of the Death Note to the human, but this is done at their discretion.

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YUREI 幽霊

Traditional Japanese people believe that the forest is haunted by the Yurei a vengeful ghost that is extremely difficult to stop. They are tied to the human world by strong emotion and seek to interact with humans. They are depicted as women with long black hair dressed in white. They are this way because the Japanese believe that women experience deeper, stronger emotions than men, and therefore are more likely to become Yurei. Understanding traditional Japanese beliefs about the afterlife are difficult, they do not have a heaven and hell as we do, but they believe that when a person dies, they enter a state of purgatory. When the proper funeral rites are performed, the soul can move on and become a protective spirit. However, if the proper rites aren’t performed, or if the person dies via suicide or murder - their soul can become lost and turn evil. Yurei are said to influence people into entering Aokigahara Forest, and often convince them to commit suicide. They are not see through, they can show themselves to who ever they like. They do not have any problems interacting with the living physical world. This is why Yurei are believed to be incredibly dangerous. They are said to seek out vengeance against all those that wronged them in life, and the Yurei will only disappear when their desire for vengeance has ended.

‘Yurei are said to influence people into entering Aokigahara Forest, and convince them to commit suicide. They are said to seek out vengeance against all those that wronged them in life.’ A common theme with Yūrei is prehensile hair. The ghosts are often heralded by hair appearing in drains or from victims’ mouthes. Many Yūrei also seem to have a connection to their hair, as items belonging to them will be found with tufts of hair still attached. A lock of hair from the Yūrei’s physical body may even be enough to hold it at bay for a time. The Yūrei’s hair will also often be able to change length at will, growing or shrinking as needed. This distinctive feature is actually a reference to the way ghosts were seen in traditional Japanese theater – the actor would wear a long wig to hide their face. As ghosts, Yūrei can often bend or completely ignore the traditional physical laws. They are often shown crawling along ceilings or walls defying gravity, and can move with extreme speed, crossing distances in the blink of an eye. They often move in a strange, disjointed manner, holding their arms at odd angles or even running on all fours. As a Yūrei is not bound to the physical plane, they can be solid or completely immaterial as they wish, and can vanish instantly. They do often have a precursor, a smell or sound that can alert a potential victim of their approach, but this can be different for each Yūrei.

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In the silence of the night a ghastly mourning can be heard, over the dark forest to which the trees cover the land of those desecrated. Rotten corpses of those agonizing souls found their earthly repose, within the trees hanging on a noose or at the groud where they are deposed. So the Yurei finds their existance not in heaven, nor in hell, but rooted on the place to which their earthy forms fell. They try to wail and scream an anguish no-one can tell, the spectre looms in melancholy, in the heart of woods they dwell. The putrid smell of the dead hanging loosely amongst the air, threading aimlessly towards the path of unbearing solitude. What is it to be heard from a cadaver in which the living pretend to be deaf? There is only but one regret in the end - Nothing was realised within their death.


夜 青 木 そ 腐 の ざ が れ 敗 静 め 神 ら る 寂 て 聖 の 死 で 悲 を 苦 体 は、嘆 汚 悶 は は さ す そ 聞 れ る れ く た 魂 ら こ も た、 地 と の 球 が 土 静 で 地 止 き を を す、 カ 見 バ け る、 ま 暗 し 森 林 上 に

輪 索 に、 あ る い は そ れ ら が 廃 せ れ 地 面 で 依 存 し て い る 木 内 に

‘There is only but one regret in the end nothing was realised within their death’. 20


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

カ ツ オ や 晴 海 二 人 恋 物 語 絶 望 的 な

‘It is said that to this day she haunts the forest she was killed in... that forest is Aokigahara’.


Harumi’s eyes were now closed, her brain had shut off, her heart had stopped beating, and the last spark of life in her went out. Katsuo put the body inside the cart with tears in his eyes, then he dragged up the cart to the road and fled. Soon, the people of the village noticed that Harumi was missing, and her family were worried for her wellbeing, and quickly sent out a search party.

HARUMI & KATSUO 晴海とカツオ

FOLKLORE

In Japanese folklore, there are many tales of Yurei. In particular, the folktale of Harumi. She was just 14 years old, and belonged to a very wealthy family in a small village in Japan. Her father worked as a travelling salesman, he was currently moving all over the south of Japan, sometimes he went as far as Tokyo, while her mother worked as an actress. Harumi had a servant who used a cart to take her to school every day, the servant’s name was Katsuo - he belonged to a very poor family in another village nearby. Katsuo was 16 years old and was infatuated with her, but he did not dare tell her as it could lead to his torture. Speaking to the master was not accepted, but he took the risk. Katsuo asked her: “Did you know that you have the most beautiful eyes?”, Harumi replied.

“How flattering, but I prefer that you don’t speak,” Of course Katsuo obeyed, not obeying Harumi could result in his death. Now, most days Katsuo would say something nice to her, but she grew tired of it. One day she said “I will never be your girl!”. But that was not the answer Katsuo was expecting. He stopped the cart, turned around and looked her in eyes, he had an evil smile on his face- he started walking towards her. Harumi got scared, and when Katsuo grabbed her she fought back. But she was no match for Katsuo. Harumi screamed for help, but nobody could help her now, he grabbed her and dragged her to the forest which was to the side of the road. Katsuo beat Harumi badly, grabbed her by the neck and started to strangle her, she fought back but there was no point, Katsuo was to strong.

One night, not long after, the village was woken by a chilling, loud shreak. A young boy said that he had seen a white figure in the road. The village elder said that he could feel Harumi’s presence, and that she had become a Yurei in her recent death. He let the whole village know, and her family now knew she was dead. Harumi wanted everyone to know that she was dead; and that she was looking for her vengeance. Katsuo had already fled from the village, staying with relatives who had believed that he had been attacked by bandits. But Katsuo’s lying only made Harumi more angry at him. She haunted him in his dreams, with the most foul nightmares you could imagine. She murdered those closest to Katsuo n his village, and then placed the knife in his bed. When the villagers found Katsuo with the knife, it was obvious that he got the blame. He was put forward to be executed, but she wanted to kill him herself. In his cell, Harumi haunted Katsuo so much that he went mad within a couple of hours, she even did physical damage to him. Breaking his bones and cutting him, but never showing herself to him. Katsuo was terrified, he stood in a dark corner of the cell, and heard a loud screech which deafened him. She now mshowed herself to him, smiling, and said: “Hello Katsuo, do you remember me? Do you remember my beautiful eyes?” After this she let out one last terrible screech which made him bleed from his ears. Harumi cracked his neck and he dropped to the floor, dead. Harumi finally got her revenge, but even though Katsuo is dead she can never gain peace. It is said that to this day she haunts the forest she was killed in... that forest is Aokigahara. 22


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

JIKINInKI 食人鬼 Jikininki are the spirits of greedy, evil, selfish individuals who are cursed after death, and they seek out and eat human corpses. They do this at night, scavenging for newly dead bodies and food offerings left for the dead. They sometimes also loot the corpses they eat for valuables, which they use to bribe local officials to leave them in peace. Nevertheless, jikininki are repulsed by their condition and hate their cravings for dead human flesh. Often, Jikininki are compared to decomposing, old dissected human bodies, Perhaps with a few inhuman features such as sharp claws or bright glowing eyes. They are a horrifying sight, and any mortal who views one finds himself or herself frozen in fear.

However, several stories give Jikininki the ability to magically disguise themselves as normal human beings and even to lead normal ‘lives’ by day. They are sometimes considered to be a form of rakshasa or gaki. They may be freed from their wretched lives through remembrances and offerings or through the prayers of a holy and/or righteous man that has a truly holy spirit and has done nothing to dishonor his or her family.


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‘Jikininki are repulsed by their condition and hate their cravings for dead human flesh.’ 24


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私 は 男 避 難 所 を 与 え る こ と は で き ま せ ん

そ れ は 私 が 恥 ず か し い こ と を 拒 否 の た め で は あ り ま せ ん

私 そ 私 私 は、れ は、に あ は 人 同 な 昨 間 情 た 夜 の を が 死 肉 持 私 体 の っ の と 食 て 本 供 べ い 当 物 る る の を 人 形 とりで で こ す 私 に を 誰 見 が て 私 い だ る っ 必 た 要 た が め あ り ま す だ け で 恥 ず か し い

“I can give no man shelter,” the recluse made answer; “it is not for the refusal that I am ashamed. I am ashamed only that you should have seen me in my real shape, for it was I who devoured the corpse and the offerings last night before your eyes. Know, reverend Sir, that I am a jikininki, an eater of human flesh. Have pity upon me, and suffer me to confess the secret fault by which I became reduced to this condition.”


‘I am a Jikininki, an eater of human flesh’


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

MUSO KOKUSHI 無双試

FOLKLORE

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‘Muso could not speak or move as he watched the shape devour the corpse and the offering.’


The legend of the Jikininki is told in the old Japanese tale of the priest Muso Kokushi. It is said that Muso was traveling alone through the forest in the Mino area of Japan when he lost his way. It was almost dark when he saw the home of solitary priests, at the top of a hill and asked the inhabitant if he could stay the night. The inhabitant was an old priest who harshly refused him lodgings, however he told him he could find food and a place to sleep in a hamlet nearby. Muso found the hamlet where the headman welcomed him and promptly supplied him food and a place to sleep. A little before midnight Muso was awakened by a young man, who informed him that earlier that day, before he had arrived, his father had died. He had not told Muso earlier as so he would not feel embarrassed or obliged to participate in ceremonies. Yet, now the entire village was now leaving their homes for a nearby village, as it was custom to leave the corpse alone for the night or bad things would befall the village inhabitants. As a priest, Muso told the young man he would do his duty and perform the burial service and stay the night with the corpse. He was not afraid of the demons or evil spirits the young man spoke of. When the young man and the others had left, Muso knelt by the corpse and the offerings and began the service. But, in the deepest part of night, Muso could not speak or move as he watched the an oddshapeless being shape devour the corpse and the offerings. The next entered while Muso was morning when the villagers had returned, Muso told in deep meditation. the young man what had happened. He was not surprised. He then asked the young man why the priest on the nearby hill did not do the ceremony. The young man told him there was no priest who lived nearby and there hadn’t been for many years. When Muso spoke of the anjitsu the young man also denied its existence. Muso then departed from the village with some proper directions to continue his journey. Although before he left, he sought out the priest on the top of the hill to see if he had taken him for something he was not. He found the hill and anjitsu easily, and the old priest let him inside this time. The old priest apologized for displaying his true form in front of Muso. He was the shapeless one who had devoured the corpse in front of him. He then explained that he was a Jikininki. After living a selfish life as a priest, only caring about the food and clothes his services brought him, he was reborn as a Jikininki, doomed to feed upon corpses. He asked him to perform a segaki-service so he could escape his horrible existence as a Jikininki. But, suddenly the old priest disappeared along with the anjitsu. Muso found himself kneeling in the grass on top of a tombstone of a priest. Muso never travelled alone in Aokigahara again.


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

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YUKI-ONNA 雪女

Yuki-onna is said to be a terrifying ghost that resides near mountains and forests. She has the ability to transform her figure into smoke, mist or snow if she feels threatened. She appears on snowy nights, as a tall, beautiful woman with long black hair and cold blue lips. Her skin is said to be so pale it is almost translucent, allowing her to blend into the surrounding snow or mist. Yuki-onna is shown in Japanese mythology wearing a white kimono, but despite this, many that have claimed to have seen Yuki-onna say that she is nude, and that she leaves behind no footprints. Her beauty is false, and it is her eyes that strike terror into the souls of humans. Some legends say that the Yuki-onna is the spirit of a woman who died at the base of a snow covered Mt Fuji. The Aokigahara lies at the base of the mountain, along with this spirit. She is said to be serene, yet lacking in mercy when killing her unsuspecting victims. Yuki-onna tends to vary from tale to tale, sometimes she is satisfied with watching her victim die, and others she is more vampiric, draining the blood from her victims. She is seen as a sucubus, luring men into the forest in winter, using her beauty to invite the men to follow her. However, in modern Japan, Yuki-onna is often shown as being more human, with her skin being a delicate colour and having human-esque features. In most stories, Yuki-onna appears to those who are lost in Aokigahara during the winter months, often trapped in the mist or snow-storms. She is said to use her icy breath to kill her victims, or to simply lead them deeper into the forest, leaving them to die of exposure to the elements. Sometimes, she has been told to have a child with her, and when a human takes the child from her in the cold, the human is frozen in place. This method of killing is said to be aimed particularly at passing women, because they are more susceptible to this tactic having motherly instinct. However, she is not as gentle as this most of the time. She is an aggressive ghost and will invade the homes of those close to the mountain, blowing in the door with a gust of wind and kills her victims in their sleep. This part of the foklore has always been unclear, some say that she has to be invited into a home, and others disagree.

‘She has the ability to transform her figure into smoke, mist or snow’


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

彼 女 の 淡 い 細 い 指 が 死 を 描 写

多 く の 命 の 最 後 の 息 を 取 る

彼 ら は、 人 生 彼 の ら た は め す に べ 達 て す の る、人 と の 空 死 を ぬ 追 権 い 利 か を け 与 る え

Nature makes a quite tall structure, But there is no menace there, Trees reach up in gentle touchings, Surrounded by the winter air. Her pale thin fingers portray death, Taking many lives’ last breath. They reach for Life, and chase the sky, they give all men the right to die.


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‘The door of the hut had been forced open; and he saw a woman in the room, a woman all in white. She was blowing her breath upon him; her breath was like a bright white smoke.’


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

MINOKIChI & MOSAKU 巳之吉と茂作


Mosaku and Minokichi were on their way home, one very cold evening, when a great snowstorm overtook them. They reached the ferry; and they found that the boatman had gone away, leaving his boat on the other side of the river. It was no day for swimming; and the woodcutterstook shelter in the ferryman’s hut, thinking themselveslucky to find any shelter at all. There was no brazier in the hut, nor any place in which to make a fire: it was only a two tatami hut, with a single door, but no window. Mosaku and Minokichi fastened the door, and lay down to rest, with their straw rain-coats over them. At first they did not feel very cold; and they thought that the storm would soon be over. The old man almost immediately fell asleep; but the boy, Minokichi, lay awake a long time, listening to the awful wind, and the continual slashing of the snow against the door. The river was roaring; and the hut swayed and creaked. It was a terrible storm; and the air was every moment becoming colder; and Minokichi shivered under his rain-coat. But at last, in spite of the cold, he too fell fast asleep.

He called to Mosaku, and was frightened because the old man did not answer. He put out his hand in the dark, and touched Mosaku’s face, and he found that it was ice! Mosaku was stark and dead... Several years later, Minokichi met a beautiful young lady, named Oyuki and married her. She was a good wife. They had several children and lived happily for many years. Mysteriously, she did not age. One night, after the children were asleep, Minokichi said to Oyuki: “Whenever I see you, I am reminded of a mysterious incident that happened to me. When I was young, I met a beautiful young lady like you. I do not know if it was a dream or if she was a Yuki-onna...” After finishing his story, Oyuki suddenly stood up, and said “That woman you met was me! I told you that I would kill you if you ever told anyone about that incident. However, I can’t kill you because of our children. Take care of them“. Then she melted and disappeared. No one saw her again.

He was awakened by a showering of snow in his face. The door of the hut had been forced open; and he saw a woman in the room, a woman all in white. She was bending above Mosaku, and blowing her breath upon him; her breath was like a bright white smoke. Almost in the same moment she turned to Minokichi, and stooped over him. He tried to cry out, but found that he could not utter any sound. The white woman bent down over him, lower and lower, until her face almost touched him; and he saw that she was very beautiful, though her eyes made him afraid. For a little time she continued to look at him; then she smiled, and she whispered: “I intended to treat you like the other man. But I cannot help feeling some pity for you, because you are so young... You are a pretty boy, Minokichi; and I will not hurt you now. But, if you ever tell anybody, even your own mother, about what you have seen this night, I shall know it; and then I will kill you... Remember what I say!” With these words, she turned from him, and passed through the doorway. Then he found himself able to move; and he sprang up, and looked out. But the woman was nowhere to be seen; and the snow was driving furiously into the hut. Minokichi closed the door, and secured it by fixing several billets of wood against it. He wondered if the wind had blown it open; he thought that he might have been only dreaming, and might have mistaken the gleam of the snow-light in the doorway for the figure of a white woman: but he could not be sure.

‘He called to Mosaku, and was frightened because the old man did not answer. He put out his hand in the dark, and touched Mosaku’s face, and found that it was ice. Mosaku was stark and dead...’


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

noppera-boō 顔のない

Most Japanese not only know the Tale of Mujina but many will happily tell you the tale with an excited shiver and gleam in their eye. Though brief, it conjures up not only the terrifying prospects of walking along darkened roads and in forests at night, but also wholly grounds in a very particular and identifiable location within Japan, making it all the more palpable to residents. Mujina are actually Noppera-bō, but the story refers to them as Mujina because in popular Japanese culture, they are often mistaken due to a recent author calling this story the Mujina. Mujina means ‘The Faceless’ in Japanese but the word also means ‘badger’, which may seem unrelated, but the characteristics of the badgers and The Faceless are the same. They are sneaky and mischievous, and cause all sorts of trouble. However, Noppera- Bo, or, The Faceless are believed to be able to use magic to trick and torment people. They are shapeshifters, they are known to love to decieve humans. One form they like to take on is that of a faceless. In Japan, the folklore often tell of characters that change shape. They are called Yokai, and each one has a distinct, different personality. A Yokai usually possesses certain spiritual or magical powers. Humans have been know to often encounter danger when confronting them. It is therefore best to avoid them when possible. Their crafty devious motives are not what anyone would want to know about, or even get involved in. Fortunately, some of these Yokai avoid humans. They prefer secluded places far from the crowds. Such as the Aokigahara forest. The Faceless are a type of Yokai, often confused with the Tanuki, however the Tanuki are much more friendly than The Faceless.

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‘The Faceless are believed to be able to use magic to trick and torment people.’


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

顔 の な い も の の た め の ヘ ル プ が あ り ま す か

ま た は そ れ ら は と て も 冷 た い と 非 難 さ れ

死 ぬ 星 の 光 に

彼 ら は 痛 み の た め に 物 乞 い を し て い る こ と

彼 ら は 恥 じ る べ き で あ る と 感 じ た い

そ 落 こ ち で た 彼 も ら の は、 彼 ら は 彼 ら の 運 命 に 値 す る 信 じ る だ ろ う か

Is there help for the faceless ones? Or are they so cold and condemned To the light of a dying star They’re begging for the pain Wanting to feel they should be ashamed So they could believe they deserve their fate? The fallen ones who won’t come home Does the grieving moon know their names As they slipped beneath her gaze? And the earth was famished And swallowed them alive Are dead hands reaching out to me? Can I look away from the Faceless Before they choose to destroy me? The night is lonely when we are blind The night is dangerous when we are alone

家 に 来 な い も

悲 し み の 月 は 自 分 の 名 前 を 知 っ て い ま す か

彼 ら は 彼 女 の 視 線 の 下 に 滑 っ て と し て

そ 死 し 者 て の 地 手 球 が は 私 飢 に え、手 そ を れ 差 ら し を 伸 飲 べ み る 込 し ま て れ い た ま す か

私 は 顔 の な い か ら 目 を 背 け る こ と が で き ま す

彼 ら は 私 を 破 壊 す る こ と を 選 択 す る 前 に

我 々 は 盲 目 の と き 夜 が 寂 し い で す

我 々 は 一 人 で い る 時 に 夜 は 危 険 で す


‘Are dead hands reaching out to me? Can i look away from the Faceless Before they choose to destroy me?’


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

o-jochuō 若い女の子

‘Pedestrians would go miles out of their way rather than wal


lk through the Aokigahara forest, because of The Faceless.’

Before the era of street-lamps, there was a particular neighborhood that was very lonesome after dark; and belated pedestrians would go miles out of their way rather than walk through the Aokigahara forest, alone, after sunset. All because of a Mujina (Faceless) that used to walk there. The last man who saw the Mujina was an old merchant of the Kyobashi quarter, who died about thirty years ago. This is the story, as he told it: One night, at a late hour, he was hurrying through the edge of the forest, when he perceived a woman crouching by some water, all alone, and weeping bitterly. Fearing that she intended to drown herself, he stopped to offer her any assistance or consolation in his power. She appeared to be a slight and graceful person, handsomely dressed; and her hair was arranged like that of a young girl of good family. "O-jochu!" (O-jochu means young girl) he exclaimed, approaching her... "Do not cry like that!... Tell me what the trouble is; and if there be any way to help you, I shall be glad to help you." But she continued to weep, hiding her face from him with one of her long sleeves. "O-Jochu," he said again, as gently as he could, "please, please listen to me!... This is no place for a young lady at night! Do not cry, I implore you, only tell me how I may be of some help to you!" Slowly she rose up, but turned her back to him, and continued to moan and sob behind her sleeve. He laid his hand lightly upon her shoulder, and pleaded: "O-jochu! O-jochu! O-jochu!... Listen to me, just for one little moment!... O-jochu! O-jochu!". Then that O-jochu turned around, and dropped her sleeve, and stroked her face with her hand; and the man saw that she had no eyes or nose or mouth, he screamed and ran away. Through the forest he ran and ran; and all was black and empty before him. On and on he ran, never daring to look back; and at last he saw a lantern, so far away that it looked like the gleam of a firefly; and he made for it. It proved to be only the lantern of an itinerant soba (noodle) seller, who had set down his stand by the road-side; but any light and any human companionship was good after that experience; and he flung himself down at the feet of the soba-seller, crying out, "Ah! aa!! aa!!!"... "Kore! kore!" (Hey, hey) roughly exclaimed the soba-man. "Here! what is the matter with you? Anybody hurt you?" "No nobody hurt me," panted the other, "only... Ah! aa!" " Only scared you?" queried the peddler, unsympathetically. "Robbers?" "Not robbers, not robbers," gasped the terrified man... "I saw... I saw a woman - by the moat; and she showed me... Ah! I cannot tell you what she showed me!"..."Ha Ha!! Was it anything like THIS that she showed you?" cried the soba-man, stroking his own face, which became faceless... And, simultaneously, the light went out.


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees


experiences 経験

On February 20th 2012, three men entered and documented their visit into the Aokigahara. Michael, Dave, and Josh entered Aokigahara at 10.20am. They did not exit the forest until later that night at approximately 6pm. Michael documented their time in the forest, and on these next few pages you can see some of the accounts of his time inside the forest.

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‘I don’t have any desire to try and sensationalise my experience in Aokigahara, even though it may seem like it to some. In all honesty I thought the forest was strange and fascinating, and not just because of it’s dark history. Everything was mossy and (ironically) full of life, it was also very quiet, at times this was creepy, and at others it was very peaceful. The forest is full of paradox and contrast. It is also physically very different to most forests, it is almost alien. For example, a lot of the trees were rooted above ground and looked as though they would start walking at any minute, while holes and crevices littered the forest floor and allowed it’s deep underground some air to breathe.’

‘I doubt I will ever return to that forest again, it truly pricked every hair on my body and left me feeling cold and empty; the place undoubtedly has a disturbed or haunted aura. I went there because I am young and curious and thought ‘why not?’, I had read about it a year beforehand and was strangely fascinated by the place. A beautiful forest, where people choose to die… how strange I thought. It seemed to me the ultimate manifestation of yin and yang, life and death, contained in a place I never in my wildest dreams would imagine existing. However, I never told myself I would go there, I had no interest in seeing the place for myself,I was perfectly content just knowing about it’s existence.’

‘I never told myself I would go there, I had no interest in seeing the place for myself. I was perfectly content just knowing about it’s existence.’


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

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“On the way back out, I am unsure whether it was because I was paranoid or whether it was real, but I could always hear sounds of footsteps and sometimes could see movement in the corner of my eye amongst the trees far away.�


‘I was expecting fear, which is why I was so confused when I instead felt a complete distortion of fear. I wasn’t scared, but I was definitely disturbed, and that is much worse. I really didn’t want to see what I wasn’t ready to see, a dead body, or a live person that was about to hang themself. I didn’t want to be haunted by a totally raw experience, but at the same time I did, why else was I there?

I was uncertain, and mixed with feelings of fear and dread. I knew that somewhere underneath all ofthat was excitement. I knew I washaving a totally unique experiencethat would be a game changer forthe rest of my life, it would give me a new lens to see with. Every future dance with fear would have to size up to this experience first,and it would lose every single time’

‘I was expecting fear, which is why I was so confused when I instead felt a complete distortion of fear. I wasn’t scared, but I was definitely disturbed, and that is much worse.’


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

I remember it being very difficult to walk through the forest as there were parts where there was no flat ground, despite the illusion that there was, it was as though the floor was booby trapped as it was covered in sticks and leaves, but underneath were holes and crevices sometimes knee deep, and so I found myself falling into holes in the ground quite frequently. We were walking very quickly as though we were in a hurry to get somewhere, and we finally reached the end of the ribbon. You can see in the video I was filming the floor the whole time in case I fell into a hole, we didn’t even look at Josh and acknowledge he wasn’t coming with us, he was spooked, and I was on edge for some reason; it was almost like we were being pulled into the forest, believe it or not. We stood facing two tall trees, each one had a white arrow on it pointing in opposite directions. David walked west, and I walked east. We couldn’t really see each other, but at least we were still within shouting distance. I reached my marker and looked around nervously. David called out my name and told me to check out what he saw, his voice had traces of worry in it. A lump formed in my throat as I pictured him happening upon a fresh body. I took a step forward and terror washed over me as I realised that site the whole time, I froze like a helpless animal that had just been spotted by a leopard in the open planes. I scanned the area and saw an old umbrella, a worn backpack, some cigarettes, and scattered used toiletries with a shirt half buried by dirt. Everything looked as though it had been here a really long time. I can’t really describe how I was feeling at that moment in time, but sadly as the day went on, I became more and more used to seeing grave sites, and even kept my cool at the sight of an old noose hanging from a tree. At the time it really felt like I was intruding and wasn’t welcome at all.

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‘I was right on edge for some reason; it was almost like we were being pulled into the forest’


I wondered whether they felt alone during and after their cigarette, or if they felt for the first time that they weren’t alone, that instead they were in a forest where others had made the same hard decision they have to make before them. Maybe that is what Aokigahara is: a place to end your life in the one place where it is o.k to commit suicide, because you can really, truly be alone and not have to worry about your family seeing your body and because the quiet of the forest whispers that it’s alright to feel the way you do, that others have ended their journey here, and no one has judged for doing it. I can imagine that these people understood that life would go on with or without them, and they weren’t required to be there for time to keep ticking. Someone deciding to end their life must see existing as being analagous to watching a really long movie that, for them at least, really stinks. They realise that the exit sign is blinking in the background and keep turning their head, while everyone else in the theatre has their eyes glued to the screen. They realise they can leave if they like, but first they have to convince themselves that it is o.k to leave. Once they leave, the movie is already forgotten about but it continues to play. And it’s the most ambiguous movie ever made, it’s very long and evokes completely unique reactions in everyone who watches it.


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees


investigationsō 調査

Many paranormal investigators have had the opportunity to investigate the forest and none have been disappointed. In an episode of Sci-Fi’s Destination Truth, a small team of investigators go into the forest, intending to conduct a series of paranormal investigation. During the investigation, the team quickly discover a long abandoned campsite and a family photo that has been cut into pieces. This causes tensions to rise amongst the team. The team also uncovers two very interesting pieces of evidence. One is an EVP that seems to be uttering the words “Get Out”. The other is video evidence of what appears to be a strange human looking shape in the woods. Others claim that demons inhabit the forest and when people enter with suicidal thoughts, the demons will prevent them from turning back. People have often described this experience even when they are not suicidal but are simply visiting the forest. They describe feeling panic and say that it is almost like the trees are trying to get you. You have to keep your eyes open for the restless ghosts and listen for the moans of agony. Also, bring along a recording device because the area is a hot spot for electronic voice phenomenon.

‘I was right on edge for some reason; it was almost like we were being pulled into the forest’

Many said that the ghosts of the forest cling to the earthly realm, in a kind of purgatory, because they died too soon or too suddenly. They really enjoy tormenting those still living that enter, and do their utmost to ensure that they do not leave the forest. Apparently, they have been seen to occasionally glide between trees as a ghastly white apparition. Spiritualists in Japan believe that the terrible suicidal events that have occurred inside have permeated the forest landscape, creating all of these paranormal activities, and have actually prevented many who enter the forest from finding their way out. However, a recent scientific explanation is that compasses can go pretty haywire in the forest due to the rich deposits of magnetic iron in the forests volcanic soil, the intensely thick tree cover can often prevent GPS systems from functioally properly.


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

‘People can have very different beliefs, according to how they have been brought up. It is the same anywhere in the world, and Japan is no different.’


myth & method 若い女の子 As far as modern families are concerned, there are so many reasons people go to Aokigahara to die. It has long been as hotspot for tourism, and some of them believe that people come from all over Japan because of the attention the forest has brought from the media. In the recent years, scientists have tried to find out if there is anything about Aokigahara that is unusual, but there has not been any evidence that paranormal activity happens inside the depths of the forest. They found that the iron in the magma that fell during the Mount Fuji explosion, could potentially have scrambledcompasses, getting people lost. However, Japan’s Self Defence Force and the US Military now regularly run training practices through portions of the forest. During which, military grade lensatic compasses have been verified to function properly. Vehicles, GPS equipment, and other electronic devices also function properly. This does not mean that spirits do not haunt this forest, it just means that people can have very different beliefs, according to how they have been brought up. It is the same anywhere in the world, and Japan is no different. The forest was formed naturally, and due to this, the traditional people in Japan believe that it should be left well alone. The forest is a naturally beautiful place that is being ruined by the negativity it has been recieving in recent years as the death toll has climbed.

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Just as natural processes formed the forest, some natural processes may wipe the forest out. Earlier this month, a Japan Today article noted one scientist’s prediction that Fuji will likely erupt sometime within the next two years. The prediction is based upon the high level of pressure that has very recently been measured in the volcano’s magma chambers and the rising water level of Saiko in the wake of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, perhaps caused by some of the permafrost being melted by rising magma.


Aokigahara : Sea of Trees

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“It bugs the hell out of me that the area’s famous for being a suicide spot. 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.”


Suicide in Japan の自殺日本

Suicide in Japan is considered to be a major problem nationally. Causes of suicide include unemployment (due to the economic recession in the 1990s), depression, and social pressures. Japan has one of the world’s highest suicide rates, especially amongst industrialized nations. The Japanese government says the rate for 2006 is 9th highest in the world. In 2007, the number of suicides exceeded 30,000 for the tenth straight year. Since 2008, the economic situation worsened in Japan due to the global financial crisis, and this has pushed the suicide rate in Japan even higher. The industries are becoming smaller which is causing higher unemployment. This in turn leads to the Japanese husbands being at home much more and this is causing domestic problems because it has been the traditional role of the Japanese women to be in the home. This situation has been the cause of some marriage breakdown, even divorce. Being unable to cope with these stresses, the Japanese men have turned to suicide. The rapid increase in suicides since the 1990s has raised concerns, with 1998 having a 34.7% increase over the previous year. Also, suicide of the youth in Japan is becoming more serious in recent years. The financial crisis has impacted also on the Japanese youth, and they see that there are few possibilities of work. A number of youth in Japan cannot see any improvement for themselves in the near future and because of this they are turning to suicide. Common methods of suicide are jumping in front of trains, leaping off high places, hanging, or even overdosing on medication. Rail companies will charge the families of those who commit suicide a fee depending on the severity of disrupted traffic. A newer method, gaining in popularity partly to publicity from Internet suicide websites, is to use household products to make the poisonous gas hydrogen sulfide. In 2007, only 29 suicides used this gas, but in a span from January to September 2008, 867 suicides resulted from gas poisoning. All of this is not made better with the stories about Aokigahara, and the media now calling it ‘the perfect place to die’. Modern and Traditional Japanese families, despite their differences, both agree that the forest is not the place to die alone, and that this form of death is dishonorable according to Japanese religion, whether it be Buddhism,Shinto or Soka Gakkai. In the words of a man local to Aokigahara: “It bugs the hell out of me that the area’s famous for being a suicide spot. 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.”


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