Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Japan's Suicide Forest

Aikigahara Forest at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan is also known as the Demon Forest. It is supposedly the place where the most suicides occur in the country and it's second only to the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge as far as worldwide tallies are concerned. Approximately 100 people per year commit suicide here.

Signs such as this are posted throughout the forest. They translate to something like: "You don't have to do this. Please reconsider. Your life is precious." The Japanese government even assigns people to go out on suicide prevention patrols.

In a country riddled not only with suicide, but with superstition, many Japanese believe that the suicides have permeated the trees of the forest, resulting in paranormal activity. Urban legend states that directional compasses stop working when you enter this area.

There are many images available online, some showing people hanging from trees. It's obvious from the photos that these people had been there quite a while before their bodies were discovered. Other photos show the final campsites of people with the personal belongings they left behind -- some with skeletal remains still in the tent. Can you imagine being the forest worker who is assigned to this area? Yikes! These poor workers are responsible for removing the corpses and carrying them down to the local station where the victims' bodies are stored. Supposedly the workers even play a game of jan-ken-pon (Rock, Paper, Scissors) to see who has to sleep in the room with the remains. You see, it's considered bad luck for the body to be left alone. What?! Oh man, I'm glad I'm not one of those workers because I suck at Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Here's a quote from a local policeman, "I've seen plenty of bodies that have been badly decomposed or that have been picked at by wild animals... There's nothing beautiful about dying in there." Does that mean that some people choose this as a, somehow, romantic spot to end their lives? Yes. Some say that this "trend" of committing suicide here started after a book was published in 1960 called Kuroi Kaiju (Black Sea of Trees). The story ends when two lovers kill themselves in the forest. Leave it to the Japanese to romanticize suicide. Oh wait. The French did that, too.

There are also legends about ghosts (obake) inhabiting the forest due to people sacrificing their family members to the forest during periods of hardship. They would literally abandon their loved ones there (I'm going to guess they were in some way prevented from just up and leaving) and had them die a horrible death by starvation. Witnesses claim to see spirits floating from tree to tree. I remember being fascinated by an episode of Destination Truth (SyFy) where they caught a spirit (white mist) manifesting and then dissipating near a tree in Aokigahara. It was intriguing to see the footage because, to me, it appeared to be a cloudy figure standing up and then squatting back down, ultimately disappearing from sight.

I'm headed to Japan next month and will make the trek to Mt. Fuji. I'm not sure I'll have time to skulk around Aikogihara Forest, but if I do it will definitely be during daylight hours!

Counting down to Hallowe'en,

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


My, my, my. Where has time gone? I can't believe it's been two months since my last post. Well, now that October is finally here I should have a lot to talk about. This is my favorite month, where it's appropriate (and even cool!) to bring ghouls, ghosts, and goblins into every day conversation. It's the time when the air feels a little crisper (except for this year -- ugh to all you SoCal folks out there), the moon seems a bit larger, and a pot of warm cider on the stove makes for a lovely nighttime treat.

I typically do a Google search for ghost stories as soon as Hallowe'en season begins so I'm making a note to self: Google it in the morning. But until I find some good stories to share with you, I want to write about:

I understand that Delusion began last year, billing itself as an interactive play. I hadn't heard of it until this year (now called Delusion: The Blood Rite). Created by Hollywood stuntman Jon Braver and produced by Neil Patrick Harris (does anybody not like that guy?!), the action takes place in a mansion in the West Adams area of Los Angeles. YOU are part of the plot and YOU must participate in order to move the storyline along. It's been said that no two people will ever have the same experience. Intrigued? I am.

You will be one in a group of twelve and you will be told the rules of the play (you can't touch the actors... but they can touch you!). You are a group of war vets, entering into an old medical ward that has been abandoned by the doctor and his staff, but the patients (who have gone mad) are still in residence. Oh, did I mention that the patients also have supernatural powers? Before you can enter, you must go into the cemetery to find a certain article and bring it back to the house. Once inside, mayhem breaks loose as you realize the patients have escaped. YOU may be kidnapped or you may have to be one of the rescuers. Either way, you're screwed.

Billed as one of the best (read: scariest) attractions e-v-e-r, Delusion promises to be clever, unique and to bring outrageous scares done by professional stunt people. You know those horror movie scenes where people scamper on the walls and ceiling? Yeah. Like that.

This girl knows her limits so I'm not convinced that I will venture into this Hell house. Nonetheless, because of its overwhelmingly positive reviews -- all promising that this attraction will scare you like nothing before -- I have to give Delusion: The Blood Rite and its creators four jumpers! Facebook me if you want to go, then do your best to convince me to join you.

Happy Hallowe'en!