The Sea of Trees
Aokigahara Jukai is Japan’s most haunted place.
The forest was created when Mt. Fuji – an active volcano – erupted 1,200 years ago and the trees emerged on top of the dried lava. All these were formed over volcanic rock from when Mt. Fuji erupted.
The forest floor consists primarily of volcanic rock and is difficult to penetrate with hand tools such as picks or shovels.
The forest is known by many names: Aokigahara (青木ヶ原), Jukai (樹海) which translates in English as The Sea of Trees, Suicide Forest, the Cursed Forest, the Black Forest.
Aokigahara is a woodland at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan that makes The Blair Witch Project forest look like Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood.
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.
Among them, two of the more well known ones; Narusawa & Fugaku are quite unique.
(Click them to find out more.)
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.
It probably has something to do with all the dead bodies scattered around. What Niagara Falls is to weddings, Aokigahara is to suicide.
How many suicides does it takes for a place to get that reputation? A dozen? Fifty? More than 500 people have taken their own lives in Aokigahara since the 1950s. The trend has supposedly started after Seicho Matsumoto published his novel Kuroi Kaiju (Black Sea of Trees) where two of his characters commit suicide there.
After that, hundreds of Japanese people have hanged themselves among the countless trees of the Aokigahara forest.
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.
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.
Also skulls. Besides bodies and homemade nooses, the area is littered with signs displaying such uplifting messages like “Life is a precious thing! Please reconsider!” or “Think of your family!” “If you commit suicide here, bears will poop on your corpse.”
In the 70s, the problem got national attention and the Japanese government began doing annual sweeps of the forest in search of bodies. But who knows how many they missed? In all likelihood there probably is a hanged person somewhere in Aokigahara on any given day.
Many people have haunting encounters in this forest and footsteps are always reportedly heard, even when there’s no one else around. Also, suddenly seeing movement in the corner of your eye, orbs, unexplainable flares in photography and ghostly apparitions are very common.
Hikers have often seen apparitions as well as heard the howl of Yurei on the wind.
According to traditional Japanese beliefs, all humans have a spirit or soul called a reikon/霊魂.
When a person dies, the reikon leaves the body and enters a form of purgatory, where it waits for the proper funeral and post-funeral rites to be performed, so that it may join its ancestors. If this is done correctly, the Reikon is believed to be a protector of the living family and to return yearly in August during the Obon Festival to receive thanks.
However, if the person dies in a sudden or violent manner such as murder or suicide or if the proper rites have not been performed, or if they are influenced by powerful emotions such as a desire for revenge, love, jealousy, hatred or sorrow, the Reikon is thought to transform into a Yurei, which can then bridge the gap back to the physical world.
The Yurei then exists on Earth until it can be laid to rest, either by performing the missing rituals, or resolving the emotional conflict that still ties it to the physical plane.
If the rituals are not completed or the conflict left unresolved, the yurei will persist in its haunting.
Some have also reported objects moving and seeing shadows among the trees. 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.
More pictures of Aokigahara below.