Aokigahara Jukai

At the north foot of Mt. Fuji lays a labyrinth forest famed for not only its beauty but suicide – Aokigahara Jukai (The Blue Sea of Foliage). The forest is made up of gnarled trees and caves, and the soil is extremely fertile due to its large makeup of volcanic iron ore from a former Fuji eruption centuries ago. It is believed that the iron deposits render domestic compasses unusable. Wannabe suicides, explorers, mushroom pickers, day-trippers, ghost hunters and police alike trail string behind them to enable them to return to their point of entry. Strewn within the forest are the cultural artifacts one collects for their final hours – a literal “death kit”: medicine, tea, maps, suicide instructions, a toothbrush and photos. Unsure if this was a myth or invisible truth, when I first visited Jukai I was greeted by a wild dog and then followed a path of BB bullets to a hanging tree I was told about. My photographic explorations seek to document this "space of cessation" phenomenon and attempt reveal whether the forest itself, beyond its cultural weighting, has a numinous existence. The 1960 pulp fiction novel by Seichō Matsumoto, The Waves Tower, and its film adaption influenced the suicide phenomenon. More recent publications such as The Complete Manual of Suicide by Wataru Tsurumi have continued the fascination with suicide and the forest.