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Hiking the Suicide Forest
True to its infamous reputation for being ‘the perfect place to die’, I found Aokigahara, the suicide forest, to be quite peaceful and serene. Aokigahara is the 2nd most popular place to commit suicide in the world, and more than 100 bodies are removed annually from the forest each year. The Japanese government has stopped publishing the forest’s death toll recently to try and lessen the popularity of the forest as a last resting place. Most people perish by walking into the dense forest without a path, or through poison, overdose or hanging. I didn’t expect to see signs of death so close to the hiking trail, but was prepared for anything.
As I was hiking through, I kept checking the woods for signs of people, but I found it to be empty of any sign of another human or animal. Much like the rest of Japan, the forest is kept pristine, free of garbage and other debris. The nature was endless, stretching for miles in every direction…..until I saw it:
A lone string, tied to a tree. A leftover sign of a person’s last day, before heading into the woods to perish.
The forest is extremely dense. You can’t hear anything except the sounds of your own footsteps. I stopped dead in mine. The only sound I could hear was the pounding of my heart through my ear-drums, and my hiking-buddy, Ed’s quiet breath. We looked at the string, tied high on the trees trunk. Someone had cut it, and the end lay limp, drooping against the strong staff of the evergreen.
I can’t imagine how much quieter the forest would be if it were full of foliage in mid-spring. I doubt much sunlight would get through the trees. In fact, the forest got really dark around 2pm, once the sun slipped below the tree line. Not only silent, and devoid of the sounds of life, Aokigahara was dark.
I can see why people come here to finish their time on this earth. There is nothing lively about Aokigahara.
The Suicide Forest’s Ice Cave
After a 10km hike through the suicide forest, Ed and I stumbled upon Aokigahara’s caves. We started at the Ice Cave and began trekking at the forest entrance to the left of it. Narusawa, the ice cave, is a great option to explore near the end of winter, after the snow packs have filled the caverns with fantastic-looking icicles.
The ice cave has some really interesting features. I almost didn’t fit into the entrance-way! Some of the areas of the cave require a bit of limbo-action to maneuver.
From the ice cave, Ed and I walked about 20 minutes to the Wind Cave, which was unfortunately closed for maintenance until Tuesday. We thought about trespassing, but could barely make out the sounds of construction, and decided not to risk it. From the Wind Cave, we made our way another 2.6km down the road- and took a detour through the woods. We came upon a lava cave!
Of course I had to photo-bomb……
This cave was quite small, and wet, but had a cute little shrine. Many people had left offerings there, including eggs, drinks, yen……..and cigarettes?
From this cave, we finally accessed the Bat Cave, only to be told that the bats were “sleeping” and we couldn’t enter that day. Bust!!!
I left the suicide forest exhausted from hiking and from the heaviness of the day. The suicide forest is a beautiful area. It’s too bad it’s tainted with such dark energy.
The book that started my curiosity:
Have you hiked the suicide forest? Or would you? Did you find it creepy?