Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Day in the Suicide Forest

I recently came across this article on CNN About suicides in Japan and the Aokigahara Forest near Mt Fuji. It is a popular place, as not only is it considered sacred, but it is truly deserted. The forest sits on a lava flow and the rolling ground made of porous and crumbling lava rock. The trees grow over the top of the rocks and the leaf litter hides huge holes. It's eerily silent. The sound of a distant highway is the only indication of direction, no streams, no slope, easy to see how one could dissipear in to these woods.
In August 2005 I went to Japan for the world's fair with some camp friends. We putzed around the countryside and ended up at a small camping joint near Mt Fuji. We go out exploring and find our way to the "Ice Cave" and "Wind Cave" at the edge of the forest. Both were discovered by people who fell into them, both require buying an entry ticket from an automated machine, and both are packed with a line of Japanese tourist. After descending into to ice cave, and waiting our turn to come back out we decided to pass on the wind cave and walk the scenic paths.
We came upon a sign that much resembles the one pictured, and a faint trail leading off into the woods. My Japanese was not amazing, but I did know the Kanji for "prohibited, stop, no mas etc.", aqnd this sign had several. Several dozen small blue and green plastic strips wound off along the path. so what did we do? Follow them. (I was determined to get arrested, everyone back home expected it.)
We follow the line of plastic strips, some began to branch off from time to time, but the bulk flowed together faded and clinging to the tree roots. after about an hour I suddently notice a very strange thing... an umbrella hanging from a tree branch. Always practical, I take it down and bring it along, it rains a lot in Japan.
Another half hour, the plastic strips are dwindaling, and we come upon another strange thing. An empty backpack, some toiletries, and a pair of shoes; all somewhat faded and weathered. I left those, seemed creepy. At this point we've lost all but the smallest traces of our plastic lead lines, and we're a little worried about getting out of the forest. Then we burst through the bushes into someones back yard, follow the road back to the highway, and have some aisu-curemu at a small shop. Later we found out that we were lucky to not stumble upon a dead body. So travel with Pink if you want to see the things they don't show tourist!!!!!

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