Aokigahara (青木ヶ原), also known as the Sea of Trees (樹海 Jukai), is a forest on the northwestern flank of Japan’s Mount Fuji thriving on 30 square kilometres of hardened lava laid down by the last major eruption of the volcano in 864 CE.
The western edge of Aokigahara, where there are several caves that fill with ice in winter, is a popular destination for tourists and school trips. Parts of Aokigahara are very dense, and the porous lava absorbs sound, helping to provide visitors with a sense of solitude. The forest has a historical reputation as a home to yūrei: ghosts of the dead in Japanese mythology.
Aokigahara is sometimes referred to as the most popular site for suicide in Japan. In 2003, 105 bodies were found in the forest, exceeding the previous record of 78 in 2002. In 2010, the police recorded more than 200 people having attempted suicide in the forest, of whom 54 completed the act.
Suicides are said to increase during March, the end of the fiscal year in Japan. The most common means of suicide in the forest were hanging or drug overdose. In recent years, local officials have stopped publicizing the numbers in an attempt to decrease the area’s association with suicide.
The rate of suicide has led officials to place a sign at the forest’s entry, written in Japanese, urging suicidal visitors to seek help and not take their own lives.
In January 2018, YouTuber Logan Paul faced an online backlash and possible loss of sponsorship for posting a video that was widely deemed to be disrespectful to a Aokigahara suicide victim. Teen Vogue reported that “Logan released two subsequent apology videos following his original clip, but many found them to be self-centered, disingenuous, and a sneaky attempt to make a profit.”