Aokigahara Jukai – The Sea of Trees

Aokigahara Jukai is a dense dark forest at the base of Mount Fuji that was formed over volcanic rock from when Fuji-san last errupted. One of the reasons why Aokigahara Jukai is visited is that it is the site of popular tourist attractions like the Ice and Wind cave which are just two of the many lava formed caves in the area. The other reason is much darker. Aokigahara Jukai is also known as the “Death Forest”, “Suicide Forest”, and as the Kuroi Jukai – the Black Sea of Trees. Please enjoy the scariest (and most disturbing) Japan photo walk I have been on to date.
Aokigahara Path

My journey started at the tourist information center at Kawaguchiko station where I asked the information lady about how to get to the “Wind Cave” or “fugaku fuketsu” in Japanese and about hiking in that general area. Instantly, you could see the look of concern on her face. You see, it makes the locals very uncomfortable when a guy, who is alone, is asking for information about Aokigahara Jukai. The forest has a strong association with death and suicide. In an average year, 75-100+ people are found dead in the endless Sea of Trees. In fact, so many people die there that the Japanese government stopped posting the number of bodies found in hopes to lessen the areas association with death.

Reluctantly, she gave me a hiking map of the entire Mount Fuji Five Lakes area which came in handy. I boarded a bus and head out for the Lake Saiko (pronounced Psycho ^^;) area.
Wind Cave
After a short bus ride, I arrived in the Aokigahara area. The first thing I wanted to check out was the lava made caves. As much as I love braving scary and haunted places, I did actually come to see the caves as well. ^^;

The Wind Cave (fugaku fuketsu) was freezing. The temperature went from in the 80s with heavy humidity to around 40 degrees instantly. It felt like I found a portal to Antarctica or something. ^^;
Silk Worms
Due to the cold weather of the cave, it also functions as a housing location for silk worms. You can find them at the bottom of the cave.
Wind Cave Ice
Also in the back of the cave, are some beautiful ice formations that require you to walk on extremely slippery grounds to take a photo. When I took this shot, I actually had one hand braced on the fencing just to keep balance. ^^;
Wind Cave Exit
Overall, it wasn’t a bad cave (kind of small though). The name might be a bit off though. There was no wind. ^^;

After exploring the Wind Cave, I started on the hiking trail to another nearby cave known as the Narusawa Ice Cave or “narusawa hyoketsu” in Japanese.

At the start of the forest, I came to a large sign in Japanese. I thought it was saying “this way to the Ice Cave” but with further research, I found the sign said this: “Your life is a precious gift from your parents. Think about them and the rest of your family. You don’t have to suffer alone. 0550-22-0110 (Police Station)”
Even without reading that sign, at the time, you can just feel the darkness and sorrow as you traverse to the ice cave.
Aokigahara Forest
The trail to the ice cave is a well maintained trail that is for use of tourists. Along the way, you can see signs in Japanese asking you not to go off the trail and just as you are almost to the ice cave you will start to see trails that are roped off that go deeper into the dark forest. I planned on going down one of those trails after seeing the ice cave…
Narusawa Ice Cave
The Narusawa Ice Cave is another freezing lava-formed cave that is known for having ice even in the middle of August. The temperature difference is so great that you can actually see mist forming where the humidity meets the cold dry air.
Narusawa Ice Cave 2
The ice cave was actually a much better cave then the wind one in my opinion. The ceiling is so low that you literally have to almost lay down and scoot on your arse for some parts of the cave. ^^;
Ice Cave Shrine
Near the back of the cave, I saw something almost completely shrouded in darkness. Looks like a lot of offerings…
Narusawa Ice Cave
As you go deeper into the cave, the walls will be lined with solid ice. I couldn’t resist touching it even though I feared that my hands would get stuck to the ice (no problems).
Narusawa Ice Cave Formations
Narusawa Ice Cave Formations 2
The ice formations in the Narusawa ice cave were absolutely beautiful. Thankfully, my photos came out and show the changing lights quite well.
Narusawa Ice Cave Exit
Overall, I was impressed with the Narusawa Ice Cave. It’s definitely worth your time if you find yourself around the Lake Saiko area.

Clearing my frosted glasses from condensation, I set off to explore the actual forest of Aokigahara Jukai – The Sea of Trees. It should be said that given the nature of this forest, readers especially sensitive to the subject of suicide should continue at their own discretion.
Aokigahara Trail
Behind the Narusawa Ice Cave are two “unofficial” hiking trails that go deep into Aokigahara forest that were made for the local cities annual corpse hunts. Both trails are roped off and one of them has in English “Do Not Enter”. Additionally, there are security cameras installed to give officials advanced warning when someone who looks like they are going to commit suicide enters the forest. At the time…I did not know this. ^^;;

Luckily, I did not encounter any local police during this little escapade. So, reader be warned, I was fortunate to have not gotten caught. Do not go into this forest unless you are prepared the possibility of dealing with the local police. ^^;;
Aokigahara Camping
A short distance down the forbidden path, I had already found signs of people. A tarp is left on the ground along with some rope….

At the enterance to the trail, you are warned that there is no camping allowed. This is because Japanese will often come to Aokigahara to “camp” but in reality that are pending suicide and just waiting for the “courage” to undertake the act.
Aokigahara Jukai
Your probably wondering why I would even want to go on a trip to Aokigahara Jukai at all. It’s simple. To say that I went in to the Sea of Trees and survived. The locals say that once you enter the forest, you will not be permitted to leave. Many people, who did not intend on suicide, have gotten hopelessly lost in this enormous forest of darkness.
Aokigahara Jukai Tape
As I continued further into Jukai, the whole place took on a different atmosphere that I will try my best to describe: one of absolute misery, fear, darkness, and overwhelming despair. Personally, I am not depressed and I believe that life is short enough as it is but, even so, I felt the aura of this place.

If you notice, there is now bright colored plastic tape now running down the path. The tape is used to help the local volunteer corpse hunters to keep from getting lost and also to mark what areas they have covered already.
Aokigahara Jukai
In Japan, some folks still consider suicide as an honorable method to dealing with issues (loss of job, shame, loss of wife). In my opinion, suicide should never be an option because while you are done with your troubles, it’s the ones who are left behind that feel the pain. The people who go into Aokigahara (who are not tourists ^^;), should think about their family and mothers and how they would feel if they chose to take their lives.
Off The Trail Aokigahara
As I walked further on, things became more like a horror story. Every tree was covered with spider webs and very shortly my glasses and hair were covered in webbing. At one point, I actually had an enormous spider in the palm of my hand! ^^;;

I spotted something in the woods just now….
Aokigahara Gear
A pile of gear that looks to have been left by a corpse handler. You can see a flashlight, batteries, hacksaw, scissors, tape, rubber gloves, and numerous chemicals. I’m not sure what the chemicals were for, but I imagine the hacksaw and scissors would come in handy. ^^;

Here is a short video of my walk off the trail in Aokigahara Jukai so you can get a feel of what the place was like. You can tell I was a bit scared out there. ^^;;

Blue Tape Aokigahara
Now, I was really deep into the forest and the tape had changed from pink to bluish. The forest is much more eerie and silent now.

At this point, I was reaching my limit by how much I could be creeped out before going back. I could just imagine how horrifying it would be do see someone hanging from a tree or with their wrist slashed. Another thought came to mind, what if I saw someone out there? What if they wanted me to join them forcefully?
This forest is known as a place where you will never be found after all…..
Aokigahara
So, how did Aokigahara Jukai become such a miserable place of death?

The forest is popularized as “the perfect place to die” in the Suicide Handbook (^^;) and in the novel “Kuroi Jukai” which ends with two lovers taking their lives in Aokigahara Jukai. Actually, even before the novel, the forest has been known as a place of demons and of evil during the Edo period. Also, in the 19th century, the forest was a popular location to commit “Ubasute“, that is, leaving an elderly relative behind to die of starvation or dehydration all alone in the forest.

As you can see, it’s no wonder that the locals steer clear of this area and that it is believed to be haunted. Many ghost hunters will come to the forest at night fall to try and record evidence of lingering spirits. Personally, I could barely handle the place during the day time. ^^;
Glove
At this point, I turned around and just wanted to get the hell out of the forest. ^^; Later, I would feel a bit stronger for having the courage to go into it at all (well courage or stupid curiosity) but at the moment I have had enough of the atmosphere of the place.

Just then, I noticed something else hanging on a tree as I walked back. It was different from the usual multi-colored tape. Sweating heavily and scared to death, I went off the trail to see what it was…. ^^;;

Aokigahara Jukai Saddness
Aokigahara Jukai Saddness 2
The scene was tragic and was hard to look at. A rope was tied with skill to a high branch while an umbrella was neatly left against the tree. A shopping bag was found as well not far from the tree. This was, by far, the most disturbing sight I’ve seen in Japan.

You only get one life in this world and it’s not that long to begin with. Life is not so cheap as to be discarded so easily. May God rest his/her soul and bless their family who are in my thoughts.
Train
Noticeably shaken, I started my long trip back to Yokosuka.

Aokigahara Jukai was a unique experience (in a disturbing way) as well as a test of courage. I will certainly never forget it.

Disclaimer Time: For the record, I do not recommend going on this journey to Aokigahara (except the caves). The dangers have already been outlined above so if you do decide to go to Aokigahara Jukai, you do so with the full knowledge of the dangers of the forest.

Also, suicide is never an option. If those thoughts ever do enter your mind, remember to think of the people who know you and care about you. They are the ones that will be hurt by you leaving.

In addition, it was not my intention to glamorize Aokigahara as a suicide location. My blog is about recording both my good and bad experiences in Japan accurately through my photos and through knowledge obtained online and in person for my readers.
ForFigurefm
A smaller image for figure.fm feed recognition which feels appropriate for this article. The image is of Touhou Yuyuko and Yukari shortly after she takes her life (before she becomes the ghost we all know and love). The artwork is illustrated by windyakuma and is posted on Moe Imouto here.

Sources for this article:
The Swedish documentary “The Perfect Place” research Part 1
The Swedish documentary “The Perfect Place” research Part 2
The above clips are highly recommended if you would like to learn more about this dark forest.
Aokigahara wikipedia article
CNN Suicide Forest article

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49 comments on “Aokigahara Jukai – The Sea of Trees

  1. Tornadoes28 says:

    Freaky. Absolutely freaky. I was thinking Blair Witch as well. What a sad sad place. I still just don’t understand why people would chose to end their life. It is sad that that suicide rate is so high in Japan.

    • punynari says:

      Yes, indeed. The suicide rate in Japan is much too high but it’s good to see that the government is doing what it can to prevent successful attempts.

      As far as for why people commit suicide, there are many reasons. Economics is a big one. Sometimes pain and chronic illnesses/disabilities as well. Also, the lost of a loved one is a popular reason. Still…..suicide is not the answer for any of those mentioned problems….

      • Rick Burton says:

        I can understand the Japanese thoughts of honor and wanting to die before dishonor,I don’t condone those thoughts.Today 3/3/13,I went through the Aokigahara Jukai,I was humbled by what I saw.It is definitely a place that will leave a mark on my soul but an awesome place if your head is in the right place.

  2. Steve says:

    I must admit I’ve been fascinated by Aokigahara for a while now, so in the most reserved way possible I’d like to thank you for giving me a bit of a glimpse. I’m not sure it’s somewhere I could actually go – certainly not by myself, for personal reasons – but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious.

    I’m glad you didn’t get lost or run into any trouble in there!

    • punynari says:

      You’re very welcome. ^_^

      I’ve also been fascinated by the area and I think a few of my photos really capture the essence of the place. But, as I mentioned before, the place is horribly dangerous so maybe folks can look at my article instead of risking their lives exploring it? I hope so. I don’t want to encourage people to go there. ^^;

      Actually, at one point during the trip, I felt lost for a few minutes. It was the time when I went to investigate that rope hanging from the tree. There were no ribbons to guide me back and I forgot which direction was what. It was absolutely terrifying (my adrenaline even kicked in). Thankfully, I managed to find the trail once again. ^^;;

  3. jr51970 says:

    Hi Andy…that forest is truly one of the scariest, most disturbing places given its history. It seems like there are 101 ways to get lost or injured there! I’m glad you made it out o.k. The caves were absolutely fascinating. Thank you for the pictures and video…this place was most interesting in a dark sort of way…it would make for a good horror story! The most disturbing photo was the one with the rope hanging from a branch and the umbrella neatly leaning against the tree. Love you, mom.

    • punynari says:

      Yes, I think the best words to describe Aokigahara Jukai are dark and disturbing…..perhaps dangerous should be added as well.

      Also, I hope my photos did not upset you in any way. That was not my intent.

  4. jr51970 says:

    Hi Andy,

    No the photos just made me picture your commentary that much more, very interesting!

    Love you :-)

    Mom

  5. kenneos says:

    I would love use some of this photos to inspire me a draw *.*

  6. Nectemar says:

    Hey I just stumbled across your blog today by google image searching some high resolution pictures of Japan and holy cow are your photos Large! I LOVE IT, Nice quality too! Then I couldn’t help but to start reading your blog and man is it fascinating. You’ve got yourself a new fan, thanks for making these!

    • punynari says:

      Your most welcome and I’m glad you are enjoying my little “side project” while I am over here.
      As much as I enjoy making Japan photo articles, I will be leaving in November or December this year (likely to Hawaii).
      It was fun while it lasted but I still have a lot of articles I will be trying to write before I have to move. Should be some good ones. ^_^

  7. Shannon says:

    Hey!

    My husband, some friends and I really want to go to the Wind cave, ice cave [and also heard about a bat cave].

    We are also in Yokosuka. I was wondering if you could help me out with directions on how to get there from here [base].

    Thank you so much.

    [Your post was very well written btw, I think Im going to continue reading your blog]

    • punynari says:

      I was a bit hesitant earlier to give directions because I didn’t want to be indirectly responsible for someone getting lost in the forest (or worse).
      To get to the Ice and Wind cave, from Yokosuka:
      1.) Take the Yokosuka-chuo line to Shinagawa Station (red or green train).
      2.) Transfer to the Yamanote Line to Shinjuku Station
      3.) Go to the ticket counter with your ticket and ask for “Azusa” “Otsuki”. This will get you to Otsuki in less then an hour and without train transfers.
      4.) At Otsuki Station, transfer to the Fujikyu Line for Kawaguchiko Station.
      5.) At Kawaguchiko station, look for the bus sign that says “For Lake Sai”. I think it was bus stop 4. I am not positive on that one, so I’d check.

      Buses get irregular later in the day, so I suggest going early and leaving early. Have fun.

  8. Gratian says:

    I just love the ice formations. That’s a great view.

  9. Steve says:

    Hey man,
    Former motivated Naval service here, working/living in Tokyo now.
    Going to Jukai with some friends (American and JP) this week.
    Want to do the exact itenerary you did. We’re going to drive to Kawaguchiko.
    Take the Retro Bus to Saiko, walk to Wind Cave, then walk to the Ice Cave. After that, we’re trying to, well, go out and find scary stuff. There are trails behind the Ice Cave? You just went down one trail and back, then backtracked from Ice Cave to Wind Cave? Or did you catch the bus at the Wind Cave?

    -Steve.

    • punynari says:

      Hi there Steve. The Ice Cave and Wind Cave are about a 20 minute walk apart. I went to the wind cave first and then went down the trail to the left of the enterance to the ice cave. On the way, you will see two trails that are suspiciously roped off. I went down the trail closest to the ice cave. The trail about half way between the two caves had do not enter in English as well.

      I wish you the best of luck in the jukai. It is good that you are bring folks with you. I’d also let someone outside your group know where you are going just in case. It is seriously easy to get lost in that forest, even with only a few steps off the trail.

      Though, if one did get lost in the forest, there’s no telling if anyone could actually find someone in there…. Please be careful…..

  10. Steve says:

    Ok, so you went to the Wind Cave, then took the trail that goes to the Ice Cave.
    Before the Ice Cave, you went down the Death Trail, then backtracked the Death Trail and went to the Ice Cave from there?

    Don’t worry, we know what we’re doing !! GPS, fluent Japanese, people who know where we are, etc.

  11. Steve says:

    Alright. So we went down there yesterday. Hit those exact same “no entry” trails as you did. I’m gonna go ahead say that your representation of the forest was a bit dramatized.

    • punynari says:

      Was there anything interesting down the path between the ice and wind cave? I didn’t actually go down that one.

  12. Aya says:

    I think you took some very nice pictures, but there is no reason to discourage people from coming here and enjoying the beautiful forest. The trails that are marked off and prohibited, are done so for a reason, and it is irresponsible to go wandering out there. However, the Tokai nature trail that runs all through that area is beautiful and well marked. In fact there are nature tours you can take in the Aokigahara forest, and Elementary students do nature hikes there, as well as many tourists. It is true that many people commit suicide out there but there are not bodies all over the place like some people think, and when someone does do it and they are found, the police remove them right away. Also they do monitor the area and try to stop people. There are marked trails in the forest all the way from Shouji Lake to Mount Fuji 5th station and everywhere in-between. I live here in Kawaguchiko, and have been on the walking trails in the forest (and to the caves) and it is not dangerous. I do agree it is a very quiet and creepy place though, I would not go by myself. :)

    • punynari says:

      Absolutely. I do not want to discourage folks who want to sight-see the Aokigahara Jukai area on designated paths and at well established tourist attractions.
      My concern was for the folks are thrill seekers or who are depressed. I don’t want to be responsible for getting anyone hurt. That’s all. ^^

  13. Rachel F. says:

    Hey, I’m actually writing a book for NaNoWriMo [ nanowrimo.org ] and most of it takes place in Aokigahara. As I’m 17 and don’t even have a passport, I can’t go to Japan, but this blog is the BEST thing I have found on the internet.

    Thanks SO much! Your blog is cool.

  14. Winter says:

    Wow, this is very interesting. I thank you for putting this up. I’m very interested in Japan and one day I wish to visit there. The caves and very interesting and I’m hoping that I can visit those when I go.

  15. xxburke568@aim.com says:

    I recently just heard of this and I’m intrigued in this forest; and i want to learn more. does anyone know of a website where i can order the book the sea of trees? ive been looking for it for an hour but no success

  16. Josh says:

    Last year I visited one of the lakes by Mt. Fuji (Kawaguchiko I think) and I saw the bus stop that heads to Aokigahara. I wanted to check it out so badly but it was already getting dark and I had to head back to Tokyo. Anyways thanks for posting these pics, it was really interesting.

  17. punynari says:

    Added a short video of the “grave site” that I ran into.

  18. juupu says:

    really nice a-bit-creepy story of yours….but definitely love your blogs.
    I’ve been reading two article of yours.
    Thanks… (^_^)

  19. Caine Winters says:

    I just came back from a trip to Lake Kawaguchiko, beautiful place. Didnt have time to check out the wind and ice caves though. Your article on the Jukai is very well written, though it’s saddening to know such a place exists… One can only imagine the desolution and despair that would drive someone to “camp” there, and the line “Your life is a gift from your parents” struck me in particular. Enjoyed your other post about the different types of trains too. I notice the Japanese people seem to have a thing for the railway too, even making it the subject of many movies :)

  20. Bullyboy says:

    Hey there, I’m 17 and really interested in places like these around the world. The pictures were great. Being a reenactor of the American Civil War I hang around a lot of battlefields up and down the east coast, my most recent visit being the antietam battlefield in July. I’ve had a number of experiences at Gettysburg, Harper’s Ferry, and a fort here in the Niagara County region, Fort Niagara.
    I can see why one could get lost so easily in this place and I, like the others, are glad you made it out alright. I would never go to the Aokigahara forest just because when things like this are discussed it scares the heck outta me. My cousin, being Japanese Hawaiin, is planning a trip to Japan to see her biological father for their honeymoon. I heard them mention the forest and immediately became interested. They said they had considered going on a trip to said forest, but having a daughter and already a second daughter on the way due in a couple months, decided it would be a bad idea. I’m thankful that they decided not to.
    I’ve been doing a lot of research in the past couple days on this forest and it just seems to absolutely capture my interest. But then again, hanging around the Wheatfield at Gettysburg at 11:30 at night after the park is closed, is not exactly the most normal thing in the world so it doesn’t surprise me.

  21. Hey, this was absolutely amazing! I recently (December last year) visited Aokigahara forest with two other friends, we spent quite a while in the forest and even got split up and lost at one point. I wrote a post detailing the whole experience on my blog, I’d love if you could check it out and let me know what you think! The link is here http://endofthegame.net/2012/02/20/aokigahara/

  22. kiki says:

    Junah wrote a song about this

  23. Reblogged this on pleasetry – the tokyo files and commented:
    Can’t wait to visit…was talking with my co-workers about this haunted forest.

  24. Laura Sesana says:

    Hi Punynari- great article! I write a column for the Washington Times Communities
    http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/world-our-backyard/
    and would like to include a few of your pics in an upcoming article about Aokigahara. I will give you full credit and link back to your website if that is ok with you. The pictures are really good!
    Email me back and let me know whether this would be ok

    Thanks!

    laura Sesana

  25. Such an alluring location, permeated in darkness with such a mystic. I’m looking forward to potentially visiting the forest alongside a few friends of a similar mindset, and perhaps even clean up some of the remnants left behind by those whom ventured in…for whatever the reason. Such a gorgeous place shouldn’t have so much litter…would be nice to clean up even a little bit.

  26. cuppyx3 says:

    This is one of the top places I want to visit. My friend told me about it and I’ve been researching on it for a couple days now. Reading all the creepy things about it just makes me that more anxious to go see it for myself! Thank you for uploading the video! Now I can have a little insight as to what it looks like but watching that video had me scared! I was literally staring at the screen eye-wide, waiting for something scary to jump out. I’m glad you got out of there safely and didn’t get too lost!

  27. Rolen47 says:

    I was watching this video:

    And at minute 12 he finds the exact same umbrella that you saw. Spooky!

  28. RandomS#!TJAP0N says:

    Only those who super hate their life would journey there to live the final moment and then S.I.P (suicide in peace).

  29. Hector says:

    Does anyone know where we could find a PDF or ebook copy of the novel? I heard that it’s been translated to English and would love to see what the fuss is all about.

  30. Calreth says:

    I just visited Aokigahara yesterday and I found the same two canisters and scissors in your picture. Those two canisters are portable gas burners. They were arranged in a different way, which probably means someone ruffled through them.

  31. Takeru says:

    A real test of courage would be to come back at night!

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