Northwest of the majestic Mount Fuji is the sprawling 13.5 square miles of Aokigahara, a forest so thick with foliage that it’s known as the Sea of Trees.
People have chosen this place, notoriously called The Suicide Forest, as the setting for their final moments, walking in with no intention of ever walking back out.
Aokigahara’s suicide rates vary, because the forest is so lush that some corpses can go undiscovered for years or might be forever lost.
However, some estimates claim as many as 100 people a year have successfully killed themselves there.
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.
As of 2011, 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 Aokigahara’s association with suicide.
A map is seen at the entrance to Japan’s Aokigahara forest, which has become known as one of the world’s most prevalent suicide sites.
It reads: ‘Your life is a precious gift from your parents. Please think about your parents, siblings and children. Don’t keep it to yourself. Talk about your troubles.’
There’s chilling evidence left behind from people who choose to end their lives there. Shoes, back packs, plastic bottles, shirts and so on.
The suicide rate in Yamanashi prefecture, where the forest is located, was the worst in Japan for eight years until 2014.
A rope remains tied to a tree at the scene of a suicide in Aokigahara forest, which has become synonymous with suicide
21,897 people have taking their own lives in 2016.
The density of the forest is believed to be a contributing factor with people often tying string and markers to trees to find their way back to a path in case they change their mind.
Part of these measures to prevent suicide attempt included posting security cameras at the entrance of the Suicide Forest and increasing patrols.
Suicide counselors and police have also posted signs on various paths throughout the forest that offer messages like “Think carefully about your children, your family” and “Your life is a precious gift from your parents.”
The forest’s trees organically twist and turn, their roots winding across the forest floor in treacherous threads.
Because of its location at the base of a mountain, the ground is uneven, rocky, and perforated with hundreds of caves.
But more jarring than its tricky terrain is the feeling of isolation created from the stillness, the trees are too tightly packed for winds to whip through and the wildlife is sparse.
One visitor described the silence as “chasms of emptiness.”
She added, “I cannot emphasize enough the absence of sound. My breath sounded like a roar.”
Volunteers who search the area for bodies and those considering suicide typically mark their way with plastic ribbon that they’ll loop around trees in this leafy labyrinth.
Otherwise, one could easily lose their bearings after leaving the path and become fatally lost.
No mobile network
Rich with magnetic iron, the soil of the Suicide Forest plays havoc on cellphone service, GPS systems, and even compasses. This is why tape can be so crucial.
But some believe this feature is proof of demons in the dark.
There’s a scary movie about the forest (2016).