Jeff and I might’ve missed our chance to tour Aokigahara during our visit to Japan, but there’s still plenty I want to say about it. Its proper name is Aokigahara Jukai, which roughly translates to “Blue Tree Meadow Sea of Trees.” The forest is legendary not just for being nicknamed the “Suicide Forest,” but also for its haunting beauty. Located near the base of Mt. Fuji, Aokigahara has become a sort of go-to spot for people to take their own life. It’s partly due to folklore, and another part to some old pop culture saying it’s a totes cool place to die. My advice: don’t take advice from pop culture. It never leads to anything good.
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Where To Stay Near Aokigahara
Most people who visit Aokigahara make it a day trip from Tokyo. But if you want to be daring and spend the night nearby (maybe see if you can catch a glimpse of a ghost?), there are loads of hotels, camps, and cottages nearby.
One of the nicer ones is a traditional Japanese inn called Shoji Mount Hotel. It has some spectacular views of Mt. Fuji and hot spring baths (AKA onsen), and overlooks the gorgeous Lake Shojiko.
PHOTO CREDITS: SHOJI MOUNT HOTEL VIA HOTELS.COM
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Aokigahara: Where Myths Meet Reality
So, what’s the deal with Aokigahara? Well, it has a bit of a reputation. You know, the kind that sends chills down your spine and makes you question your decision to visit. The fact that it’s seen its fair share of tragedies certainly doesn’t help things. But hey, who doesn’t love a good spooky forest, right?
Legend has it that Aokigahara is haunted by lost souls who couldn’t resist its enigmatic charm. They say these spirits roam the forest, whispering tales of woe and despair. Now, don’t go thinking you’ll stumble upon a ghost party or anything, but a little paranormal thrill never hurt anyone.
Diving into the Eeriness Headfirst
As for where some of these rumors came from, you only need one visit to figure it out. Picture this: a maze of twisting roots and vines, rocky uneven ground that never seems to settle, and dense vegetation that blocks out the sun like an overzealous bouncer at an exclusive club. The air is thick with silence, broken only by the occasional rustle of leaves. It’s like being in a horror movie, sans dramatic music.
As you navigate the forest’s labyrinthine trails, you might come across signs urging visitors to think about their loved ones and reconsider their life choices. It’s a bit heavy-handed, but considering that the number of suicides in the forest hit 108 twenty years back… well, let’s just say, I can understand. It definitely adds a note of solemnity to the trip.
Just one tip: you should absolutely stay on the path, but if you ever find yourself lost, just follow the colorful tape to help lead you back. It was put up there by volunteers combing the forest for bodies… but if that thought’s too morbid for you, you can think of it as the forest’s way of saying, “Hey, I know I’m spooky, but here’s a lifeline to guide you out.”
Horror Movie Bonus: No Cell Service in Aokigahara
The horrors don’t end with the visuals, though. Many people visiting the forest find that they can’t use their cell phones. (No! I can’t scroll through Instagram during my nature walk?!)
Seriously, though, the soil in the forest is super iron-rich, which messes with a lot of electromagnetic signals. Not just cell phones, but compasses, GPS and other electronic devices, too. It’s one of the reasons why people put up the aforementioned tape. It’s easy to get lost, and not so easy to find your way out again.
Not everyone has the same experience, though. Some people’s cell phones work just fine, so it might be the luck of the draw.
Add Some Extra Spook with a Cave Visit or Two
Oh, what, the creepy forest isn’t enough for you? Well, me neither! Turns out, Aokigahara is littered with caves. The two most worth visiting are the Wind Cave and the Bat Cave. And yes, the Bat Cave has a Nature Center near the entrance with the obligatory Batman references. What more could you ask for, really?
The Lake Sai Bat Cave is more than just a couple puns, though. It’s what’s called a lava tube, formed during the 9th century Mt. Fuji eruption. Along with the bats (of which there are six different species), you can see some pretty cool lava formations.
The Fugaku Wind Cave is another lava cave, but this one is more of a nature-made fridge. (It’s also not the first Wind Cave I’ve covered.) As you step into the caves, a gust of cool air welcomes you with a drop in temperature. Definitely a nice side trip if you’re visiting in the summer.
Head Off Potential Panic Attacks with a Tour
Now, don’t go expecting an Indiana Jones-style adventure. Both caves are relatively easy to navigate, with well-maintained paths and signage that guide you along the way. It’s the kind of cave exploration that even your clumsy cousin Larry can handle without causing a cave-in. And if that’s not enough, there are walking tours you can book, too.
For that matter, you can book some tours going through Aokigahara Forest as well. More safety in numbers, and a lot less likelihood of losing your way. I’d recommend going with Viator; I’ve used them before and they’re a solid company. Just check out the link near the bottom of the page to get started.
As much as I try to keep things lighthearted, behind the spooky tales and morbid history is a hauntingly beautiful and tragic place. I hope you enjoyed my mini deep-dive, and if you did, please consider following me for updates. I’ve got a lot more Asia and around-the-world adventures in store.
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