Ask most paranormal investigators what’s on their paranormal bucket list and you’ll probably hear them answer “Japan’s Suicide Forest”. It has been on mine ever since I first heard about it on Destination Truth ten years ago. Ever since that episode I felt drawn to it. So when my husband came home from work one day in January, while we still lived in Iwakuni, saying that Papaya and Ortiz (two marines in his shop) said that they wanted to go camping in Suicide Forest in a few weeks, I immediately invited us along on their trip.
Two weeks later, Jeremy and I left Iwakuni with our tiny Nissan March loaded up with all our camping gear plus the stuff we rented from Outdoor Rec. We were driving up while Papaya and Ortiz were flying up. We thought it would be cheaper to drive up on the expressway (spoiler alert- it wasn’t cheaper). Unfortunately, the week before we left I ended up getting a sinus infection, a cold and burst my right eardrum because of both those but I wasn’t about to miss going to the Suicide Forest.
When we arrived there, we decided to spend the first night at a hostel in Tokyo. Jeremy and I checked in before going to the airport to pick Papaya and Ortiz. We spent the evening sightseeing and visiting a maid cafe. Before going to bed, we made sure that all of our equipment was plugged in and charging. The next day, we drove out to Mount Fuji where the forest is located at.
The section of the forest known as Suicide Forest is a part of a larger forest called Aokigahara. Aokigahara is Japanese for “sea of trees”. This forest is unusual in Japan because usually the forests are made up of both trees and bamboo but Aokigahara is just trees. We underestimated how far it was from Tokyo so by the time we got to the area it was already getting dark. Imagine our surprise that we spotted a normal road sign announcing we were in Aokigahara. With how the area is portrayed and the recent controversy with Logan Paul’s recent video, we were expecting it to be harder to find.
Since it was getting dark quickly we opted for a ready-made campsite for the night. None of us wanted to try hiking in a strange, haunted wood in the dark. The campground was located in Aokigahara by one of the lakes at the base of Mount Fuji. With it being mid-January, it got really cold really quickly. It got down to 17 degrees Fahrenheit that night. Brrrr… Thank goodness for the fire that we built to stay warm.
The next morning we packed up all of our stuff to check out the forest. According to my research, the section of the forest that is known for the suicides is oddly located between two tourist areas with walking trails between them so people could walk to each location easily. The websites I used to do my research on have since been disabled or had the maps removed from them. I guess that is more fallout from the whole Logan Paul fiasco. Out of respect to the Japanese, I will not publish any maps or name to the two tourist areas in this post.
Anyways, back to the story. We parked at one of the tourist areas. It had two trails that lead to the other tourist area. One trail on either side of the smallish parking lot that held about twenty cars. Since hiking and spending the night in Suicide Forest is frowned on by the Japanese, we chose to do the trail on the far end of the parking lot to make it less obvious we weren’t there for the tourist area. Papaya and Ortiz were going to camp in the forest. Jeremy didn’t want us to because the frigid weather from the night before was making my cold worse but we did want to go into the forest. We followed the trail all the way to the other tourist area before doubling back a bit. It took about 3 hours to walk to the second tourist area just sticking to the main path. The websites had said that there were a few trails off this main path that lead to the area known for suicides.
After only walking on the path for a few minutes we started noticing a few things. First of all, it was eerily quiet in those woods. Occasionally you could hear kids laughing from the tourist areas but mostly it was just quiet. No bird noises. No insect noises. Just creaking trees. At times the atmosphere made it feel improper to talk very loud. We also noticed that even though it was early afternoon on a sunny day and we could see the sky through the trees, it was unusually dark in the forest. We also noticed that all of our electronic devices, gopros, cameras, etc that we had charged completely at the hostel and had been off until us getting out of the car, were completely dead. Including the backup batteries for my camera (I have three batteries for this camera). Thankfully our external chargers for our phones were still holding charges so we could charge our phones.
As we walked through the forest on the main trail connecting the two tourist areas, we could see further back in woods where there was colored ribbons and strings darting in between the trees. Seeing those ribbons really hit home why people came out here. Those ribbons are ribbons from people going into the forest to end their life. The ribbons are so they can find their way back out if they change their mind or so someone can find their body afterward.
At that point, I started feeling guilty about why I was there. I was there hoping to experience something paranormal and up until that moment, I hadn’t stopped to really think about what someone is going through to walk into these woods to end their life. I spent the rest of that hike trying to put myself in their shoes to understand them. I mean what kind of state of mind did they have to be in to walk past families with children to enter this forest? I know that Japan has a different view of suicide than Americans with their ideas of seppuku or hara-kiri (ritual suicide usually as a result bringing great shame to their family or work) but still, that walk has to be the loneliest feeling in the world. Out of respect to the Japanese and those who lost their lives in this forest, this is the only picture that I will share that shows one of the ribbons. I am only sharing this one because I know this isn’t attached to someone anymore.
We started walking back on the main path to the first tourist spot we decided to step on the path to follow a smaller unused path. Papaya and Ortiz still wanted to spend the night in the woods. Jeremy and I walked with them a ways into the woods. After about 30 minutes, Jeremy decided me and him should head back to the car. It was getting darker in the woods and we wanted to be out before sundown. We left the other two guys on the path to find a campsite. We agreed to pick them up the next morning at 9am at the second tourist area since the path was only 10 minutes away from it. We left them with our extra lantern and phone chargers.
Jeremy and I expected to get back to the main path in 30 minutes or less but it ended up taking closer to 2 hours even though we were walking the exact same path at a faster pace. I was no longer interested in taking pictures and just wanted to get out of the forest. I wasn’t scared. I just felt uncomfortable. I felt watched. Out of the corners of my eyes, I thought I would see someone or a shadow walking through the woods a few feet to the side of me. If I looked in that direction I wouldn’t see anything. I was ready to brush it off as leaves falling or my mind playing tricks on me until I noticed Jeremy, who was walking a few feet in front of me, was doing the same thing at the same time. He was looking in the same directions at the same time I was seeing the shadows flicker. I called out to him and asked him if he was seeing something. He described the same thing as I was seeing. Hard to rule it out when someone else is unknowingly experiencing the same thing.
When we finally made it back to the main path we were anxious to just get out of the forest. It was getting dark and we were both getting uncomfortable. We got more uncomfortable when we heard something walking in the dead leaves beside us. The path we were on didn’t really make noise when we walked on it because those leaves didn’t really crunch anymore. The leaves on the sides of the trail were still crunchy because no one really walked over there. Because of that, it was easy to tell if something or someone was walking there. We kept stopping to see if there was anyone there and we could hear the steps continue a few steps and then stop. We looked through the trees but we couldn’t see anything. With as loud as the steps were, we should have been able to see what was causing the noise. This continued for about 20 minutes or so with us stopping every few feet to listen to the footsteps.
At that point, we found a path that lead to the first tourist area but it was for the side of the parking lot we didn’t enter at. We were expecting to be still hiking for another few hours because of how long it took to hike the main path before but we were surprised to stumble out of the woods after only 15 minutes. In the parking lot, it was still bright and sunny. The woods made it seem like it was much later and closer to sunset.
Jeremy and I spent the night at another hostel with the plan to meet up with Ortiz and Papaya at 9am. Shortly after 7am Jeremy woke me up saying Papaya just called him saying to come to get them now. They wanted to leave immediately and they were already at the tourist area. He told them that we would be there after checking out. Papaya said that they didn’t want to wait and that they would be on the road walking towards us. They refused to wait for us at the tourist area. By the time we found them, they were at a lake 5 miles from the meetup point.
They wouldn’t tell us what they saw or what they experienced. To this day we still don’t know why wanted to get out so bad. If two Marines couldn’t handle the woods, I am grateful my husband chose for us to stay at a hostel that night. I will think more about where I go to do my investigations from now on.
While I am grateful that I was able to visit this beautiful and tragic forest, I more grateful to have the reminder of why I preach ethical ghost hunting. I forgot to give to the respect to the dead that should be given and the spirits here helped remind me that I need to do that. If you do choose to go here, don’t go with the intentions of seeing dead bodies. Go to honor the people who lost their lives there. Especially don’t be like Logan Paul. If you choose to go to Aokigahara or have been there, please let me know. I would like to hear about your experiences.