A blog entry about suicide seems rather odd especially weeks before Christmas, but perhaps it is precisely THE time to write about it because there are many who may not be feeling the festive and joyous mood during this period. And for those people, the festive seasons can also be the most lonely and depressing periods.
Previously, I have visited and stayed around the Mount Fuji area ( usually by one of five lakes nearby) in Japan a few times, and I have heard many haunted stories and rumour about the area, but the spookiest must be the Aokigahara forest, which is the world’s second most popular suicidal location after The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco ( there is also a documentary about it in “The Bridge“). Not surprisingly, Japan also has one of the world’s highest suicide rates, which is an on-going issue for the country.
The forest is also known as the “Sea of Trees” and has long been associated with demons and spirits in Japanese mythology, but its popularity for suicide soared after the publications of the novel “Kuroi Jukai” (Black Sea of Trees) by Japanese author, Seichō Matsumoto in 1960 with two lovers committing suicide in the forest as its ending. Then it was mentioned again in Wataru Tsurumi‘s controversial book called “The Complete Manual of Suicide” published in 1993, which sold over one million copies in Japan. In this book, he also recommends Aokigahara as the perfect place to die, which hardly helps the situation. In 2004, the the number of people found dead in the forest reached 108 ( usually by hanging), and so more efforts have been made to prevent further deaths including placing warning signs in the forest.
Recently, I watched a rather sombre but moving documentary on the suicides in Aokigahara Forest, and it prompted me to want to write about it. The documentary follows the forest’s geologist, Azusa Hayano, who patrols the forest to prevent suicides. The documentary shows how vulnerable and isolated people are especially in this day and age. It also reminds me of the drama-documentary film, “Dreams of a life” about the life of Joyce Vincent, who died in her flat alone for three years without being discovered. Although it was not a suicide, it was shocking enough to hear that someone could disappear from the earth without friends and family noticing it!
* Beware of the graphic images in this video…
The message in the documentary is not about the morality of suicide, but like Mr Hayano mentioned, we are not alone in this world, so in order to coexist, we need to care about each other more and have more face-to-face human interaction. As we all know, we and our loved ones will all die one day despite of the causes, so while we are still alive, perhaps we can care more and do more for each other to make each other’s lives happier.