“Suicide Forest…” Did I hear our tour guide correctly? As we rolled down the highway, closer and closer to Mt. Fuji, I heard these words over the loudspeaker on the bus. I had heard of this place before, but didn’t know where it was located or that it sits near the base of Mt. Fuji. I certainly didn’t know we would be passing by on way to the great mountain. After the tour guide explained the statistics about suicides in the forest and in Japan in general, the bus became noticeably quieter as we peered out the window. While normally, I would have described this forest as a beautiful dark green, lush, full-of-life woodland, I now saw it as a gloomy, menacing, sad place. The name, Aokigahara Jukai, literally means sea of trees.
I said a silent prayer at that moment for the lives of people considering ending their lives in that dark, sad place.. that their hearts would be touched and at least one life saved that day. In Japan, suicide is the leading cause of death for people 15-34 years of age and Japan’s suicide rate is approximately 60% higher than the world average.
I still pray for those considering ending their life in Aokigahara Jukai…or anywhere.