Sprawling around 13.5 square miles of the dense woods, and also known as the Sea of Trees, the eerie Aokigahara Forest, set on the northwestern flank of the famous Mount Fuji in Japan, and roughly a two-hour drive west of Tokyo, has the notorious distinction of being a perfect destination for suicide, only second to the Golden Gate Bridge in the States. The forest bears several signs at the head of some of its trails, reminding the visitors intending to commit suicide that life is a precious gift, urging them to think of their families before taking any fatal action, and advising them all to contact a suicide prevention association for help.
Even then, untold visitors have chosen the forest as the setting for their final moment, walking in with no intention to come back.
However, despite the honest efforts, 105 bodies were found in the forest in 2003, exceeding the previous record of 78 in 2002, and according to the police report, more than 200 people had attempted suicide in the forest, out of which 54 did it successfully. It was also detected that as of 2011, the most common means of suicide in the forest were hanging or drug overdose. According to a local government report, between 2013 and 2015, more than one hundred people, who were not inhabitants of the surrounding area, committed suicide in the forest.
Nevertheless, in a desperate attempt to decrease the acts of suicide in the forest, if not completely stop it, in recent years the local officials have stopped publicizing the number of self-annihilation associated with the notorious Aokigahara.
Scholars have long considered why such a huge number of people choose the forest to die. Based on the interview of a handful of suicide survivors, a Japanese psychiatrist reported that they believed that they would be able to die there peacefully, without being noticed by anyone and without facing any obstacle. The finding was partly true, because the forest is so lush that some corpses can go undetected for years or might be lost forever, devoured by animals. Apart from that, the locals tend to avoid the forest as they believe it to be the home of the Yurei, the ghosts of the dead, who are vengeful and lure the visitors to commit suicide or make them mesmerized to roam in the dense forest aimlessly to lose their way and ultimately die of starvation, dehydration or exposure.
Thriving on 12 square miles (30 sq km) of hardened lava by the last major eruption of Mount Fuji, the Aokigahara Forest is no place for a stroll. Termed by many as the Suicide Forest, its trees organically tend to twist and turn, and their roots wind across the forest floor in treacherous threads. The ground is uneven, rocky, perforated with hundreds of caves, while the porous lava absorbs sound, helping to create an unearthly sense of eerie solitude over the visitors, described by a visitor as a chasm of emptiness.
At least to put a check on the number of suicides, the government took some measures, which included installing surveillance cameras at the entrances of the Aokigahara Forest and appointing volunteers to increase patrols.
The endeavors of the volunteers and the police are not actually intended to rescue people, but to trek through the Sea of Trees to rescue the remains of the dead for proper burial. Although camping is allowed in the area of the forest, visitors camping for days together are taken as vulnerable people who are probably undecided about their suicide attempts, and passing days debating over their fates time and again. Men on patrol approach them, talk with them gently, and pursue them to leave the forest. It is said that due to the high magnetic iron content of the soil, cell phone service, GPS service, and even compasses often do not work properly in the forest area. Therefore, as a safety measure for coming out from the leafy labyrinth, the search party carefully indicating their way by looping a plastic ribbon around the trees to avoid the possibility of being fatally lost.