Inside Japan’s Suicide Forest
Logan Paul, a social media star posted a video that caused a major fuss in the virtual world. The video showed a blurry image of a man hanging on a tree in the deep forest in Japan. The video showed him having a mocking commentary of the person who committed suicide in the forest, but his comical personality was interpreted as the lack of awareness on the issue of mental health.
Aokigahara is a forest located at the northwestern flank of Mount Fuji. The forest runs up to 30 square kilometers, made up of hardened lava due to the Fuji’s eruption. The Aokigahara has caves stretching out on the edges and it is a popular destination for tourists and locals.
The forest is very dense due to the hardened lava, providing a quiet and still atmosphere. Over the years, many hikers have already lost their way into the forest. That is why hikers mark their tracks so they’ll be able to find their way back. Aokigahara has also gained a new reputation over the decades. The place is infamous for being the world’s most rampant suicide site. Gaining the colloquial title “Suicide Forest”.
Suicide in the Suicide Forest
Since the suicide in Aokigahara is already a well-known phenomenon, the government of Japan is already doing an action to help lessen the suicide rate. Upon entering the forest, there is a sign that encourages the people attempting suicide to think about their loved ones. This signage is being put to help these people doubt their decision of committing suicide. CCTVs are also being installed at the entrance of the forest to help monitor those who are walking in.
Volunteers are being trained to be able to talk to people who are potentially taking their lives. The local government is also increasing the numbers of police who are patrolling the area to respond immediately when an accident happens. Even shows, movies, and plays that portray suicide is highly discouraged in Japan to not trigger those who have the tendency to do it.
Why the Suicide Forest?
In Japan Methodology, Aokigahara is known to be the home of the yūrei, the ghosts of the dead. For other people who attempted suicide but failed, they chose to take their lives in the forest because it is very quiet. They have this notion that they will be able to die successfully without getting noticed or being found by the authorities.
According to Psychiatrist Dr. Yoshitomo Takahashi, people also decide to commit suicide in the forest to feel included in a particular group. The data of the suicides in the forest serves as a safety blanket that even in their last moments, they are still not alone. Movies and the portrayal of the forest in the pop culture are also one of the factors why people choose this place. Other people from outside of town and country even travel to Aokigahara to take their lives.
Suicide in Japan
Japan has a long history of suicide. Unlike other countries, the stigma of suicide in Japan is almost non-existent. In Japan history, they have what they call Seppuku, a suicide ritual of samurais which is considered honorable and noble. Although the ritual is not being practiced anymore, it definitely left a mark on the culture, affecting how the Japanese view suicide in general. Suicide is also not considered as a mortal sin in Japan because it is not a Christian country. They see suicide as a person’s part of a rational decision that is why they respect it.
In 2015, the countrywide suicide totaled to 24,000, and that’s for just one year alone, excluding the failed suicide attempts. This statistics is according to the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.
Factors of Suicide
Japan is one of the top developing countries with a high suicide rate. Emotional and financial aspects are said to be the major factor of suicide in Japan. Suicide in the country drastically increased after they experienced the economic crisis in the 90s. One man who attempted to take his life in the forest said that he arrived at the decision after being fired from the company he was working in. Losing job means losing money, and he can’t live without having money to buy for his necessities. One factor their also looking into is that there is a stigma to people who are seeking help from mental health practitioners, most especially men.
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