CentreTerm is rapidly coming to an end! Our group has had a great time bringing our podcast together and we are excited to have a real final product soon. In Between our stretches of editing, re-recording, and little tweaks to our podcast, the group chats about interesting things we have found within East Asian lore. Something interesting and eerie that we mused about recently was the lore surrounding the Aokigahara forest in Japan. The Aokigahara forest, also known as, “the sea of trees” or “the suicide forest,” is a popular site for suicide in Japan and among the top sites for it in the world. Due to the many deaths within the forest it is often associated with Yūrei, or ghosts of people that are unable to find peace. Fear of encountering these spirits keeps many Japanese people from going anywhere near the forest. Due to the high rates of suicide associated with the forest, the Japanese government enacted protocols such as, signs with positive messages in both English and Japanese. These signs are meant to discourage those who enter the forest for the purpose of taking their own life. Guard rotations on the outskirts and interior of the forest have also been readily increased over time, with the guards being prepared to speak with visitors and encourage them to leave unharmed.
There are also annual sweeps by officials and volunteers inside the forest to collect bodies to provide proper burials and closure to family members. The forest itself is perilous, being at the foot of Mt. Fuji, its terrain is very rocky and littered with caves, with tree roots spread out and twisted along the forest floor. It is also incredibly dense, so much so, that people that go in often get lost and some bodies are never found. Hikers and volunteers often use tape to trail behind them in order to find their way back out.
Those who have gone into the forest remark on the eerie quiet that results from the denseness and lack of wildlife, causing even more discomfort for those traveling within the forest. Even more disconcerting, the large presence of magnetic iron within the soil of the forest messes with cell phone signals, GPS, and compasses, making it difficult to call for help or find your way out when lost. The macabre history of the forest dates back around the 19th century, when in times of famine, families would carry their elderly there and leave them to die (known as Ubasute). Overall, this forest would not be our first choice for a camping trip, that’s for sure.