Tag Archives: Japan

The Suicide Forest

15 Apr

At the base of Mt. Fuji, Japan, there is a forest called ‘Aokigahara’, which is also known as Jukai (the sea of trees). It is a popular tourist attraction due to the presence of icy caverns; however, it is also a popular destination for something much more disturbing. Aokigahara is one of the most popular suicide destinations in the entire world, second only to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

The forest as seen from a distance. (Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Alpsdake)

The forest as seen from a distance. (Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Alpsdake)

On average, approximately 100 suicides occur every year in the forest. Many of the suicides happen right at the end of the financial year, and most are drug overdoses or hangings. Throughout the forest (and also at its entrances), there are signs written in Japanese and English urging suicidal people to get help and think of their families and other loved ones.

A sign urging visitors to think of their loves ones and seek help. (Source: http://studio360.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/your-life-is-a-precious-gift-from-your-parents/)

A sign urging visitors to think of their loves ones and seek help. (Source: http://studio360.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/your-life-is-a-precious-gift-from-your-parents/)

There is an annual body hunt to recover dead bodies, but it is not uncommon to wander through the forest and come across bones, old clothes, nooses hanging from trees, suicide notes nailed to trees, and sometimes even creepier things. There are dolls nailed upside-down to trees in certain parts of the forest, which is allegedly an expression of hatred for society in the form of a curse. To add to the weirdness of the forest, it is also eerily quiet. This is due to the lack of wildlife and the density of the trees, which blocks the wind.

A place in the forest where a noose was found, along with a bag and cut-up credit cards. (Source: http://lookingforalosea.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/aokigahara-forest-suicide-forest-japan.html)

A place in the forest where a noose was found, along with clothes, a bag, and cut-up credit cards. (Source: http://lookingforalosea.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/aokigahara-forest-suicide-forest-japan.html)

So, how did this awful suicide tradition begin? No one is entirely sure, but many think that a book called ‘Tower of Waves’ may have inspired people to think of Aokigahara as a place for suicides. However, its reputation as a suicide destination predates this novel, and Japanese people have associated the forest with death for a long time. The practice of ‘ubasute’ was allegedly carried out in the forest in the past; this was the practice of taking the elderly or sick into remote areas such as mountains or forests and leaving them to die of exposure or starvation. Thus, many believe that the forest is haunted by the spirits of the dead, and it also has an association with demons in Japanese folklore.

Would you visit this forest, or go camping in it? Any other thoughts? Let us know in a comment below.

To find out more about Aokigahara, watch this documentary:

Mount Mihara – The Most Depressing Volcano in the World

3 Apr

The geographical region that contains Japan and its surrounding areas is infamous for its occurrences of tectonic and volcanic activity, and Mount Mihara is an example of this.

Mount Mihara's peak from a distance. Source: http://wikitravel.org/shared/Image:IMG_4759.JPG

Mount Mihara’s peak from a distance. Source: http://wikitravel.org/shared/Image:IMG_4759.JPG

An active, 2500-foot tall ‘stratovolcano’, it is located on the island of Izu Ōshima, around 100 kilometers south of Tokyo. Stratovolcanoes are tall, conical, and most commonly formed at subduction zones. Mt. Mihara erupts quite frequently, with major eruptions occurring every 100-150 years. During the last major eruption, in 1986, the entire island’s population had to be evacuated by the military, and the plume created by the eruption was 16 kilometers high in the air.

Diagram of a subduction zone and stratovolcano

Diagram of a subduction zone and stratovolcano

So, what exactly is so depressing about Mt. Mihara? Well, the story starts in the 1920’s, when several people committed suicide at the volcano. From a certain point at the top of it, it was actually possible to jump straight into the lava. In 1933, a young student named Kiyoko Matsumoto also committed suicide by leaping into it, and this sparked a horrifying trend.

Within the year, almost 1000 people had committed suicide at Mt. Mihara, and when this trend continued for a few more years, Izu Ōshima became known as the ‘Suicide Island’. Eventually, Japanese authorities had to build a large wire fence around the jumping-off point, to prevent any more suicides.

Satellite image of Izu Ōshima. Mt. Mihara is visible as the darker area

Satellite image of Izu Ōshima. Mt. Mihara is visible as the darker area

Lava is so dense that if you jumped into it, you would not sink directly into it; instead, you would float. It is so hot that a person would essentially be cooked to death in their own steam, which is created from the body’s water vaporizing as it comes into contact with the lava flow.

That sounds like an incredibly awful way to die, and I have no idea why it became such a trend! Let’s hope that it doesn’t start up again.

The Devil’s Triangle

27 Mar

Almost everyone knows stories about the Bermuda Triangle; the sea between the three points of Bermuda, Florida, and Puerto Rico which is apparently responsible for the demise of many ships and planes due to ‘mysterious circumstances’. However, hardly anyone has heard of the allegedly equally-dangerous Devil’s Triangle (otherwise known as the Devil’s Sea or the Dragon’s Triangle).

This particular ‘triangle’ has apparently claimed the lives of many people over the years, and stories hold that some supernatural force causes ships to disappear. There have been claims that other paranormal events occur in this region too, like time lapses and electronic malfunction. Some people also believe they have seen UFOs in the area. Also, the ‘Dragon’s Triangle’ name apparently originates from ancient tales of fire-breathing dragons being in the area.

Japanese dragon painting by Ogato Gekko. Credit: Adam Cuerden

Japanese dragon painting by Ogato Gekko. Credit: Adam Cuerden

So, where exactly is the Devil’s Triangle? The location differs depending on who you ask, but it is thought to be somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, anywhere between 100 – 1300 km from Japan. That’s not exactly specific… however, most believe that the Devil’s Triangle is close to the Izu Islands, a chain of islands not too far south of Tokyo.

Map of the Izu Islands

Map of the Izu Islands

I wasn’t able to find any sources as to where the legend first definitively arose, aside from the ancient dragon legends, but a lot of it had to do with a book written by Charles Berlitz, called ‘The Dragon’s Triangle’. In this book, Berlitz claimed that Japan had officially declared the area a danger zone after they lost 700 people from military ships during 1952-1954. The ships apparently vanished into thin air, at which point Berlitz claims the Japanese government sent a research ship with 100 people to investigate. This research vessel promptly vanished too.

Now, this legend would be very spooky… if there were actually any truth to it. The oceans around Japan are known for their seismic and volcanic activity, so disappearances of ships/boats isn’t exactly an abnormal occurrence. The ‘fire-breathing dragons’ of the ancient legends could have just been volcanoes.

Credit: Oliver Spalt

Credit: Oliver Spalt

Also, it seems that Berlitz sensationalized the whole issue, along with simply making stuff up. The research ship, the Kaiyo Maru No. 5, actually only had 31 people aboard, and was found to have been destroyed by a volcanic eruption while it was investigating an underwater volcano. The military vessels that Berlitz referred to were actually just fishing vessels, and he conveniently ignored the fact that hundreds of fishing vessels are lost over the years in all different regions of the Pacific, not just the Izu Islands region.

I love reading about weird and creepy things, so it would be great if the stories surrounding the Devil’s Triangle were true. But, unfortunately, it seems like it is just another story that was made up to entertain people, or perhaps warn them about the real (seismic/volcanic) dangers of the area.

%d bloggers like this: