An ordinary-looking forest in Japan (upper right photo). Nothing spooky about it right? Right. It’s only Aokigahara Forest, a beautiful forest on the northwestern foot/slope of Mt. Fuji. However, it has gotten way too much negative publicity for being the “Suicide Forest.” Like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, a known suicide spot can still be a major tourist attraction.
Despite its macabre reputation, Aokigahara Forest is still a popular attraction for nature-seeking tourists. It’s a big forest, big enough for people to do whatever they come here to do. Very educational for school kids too. The huge forest is on lava rock (upper left photo) with easy walking trails (upper right photo) and lava tubes or ice caves (lower photos) that you can enter. Lots of wildlife and flora. Highly recommended, but only on a guided tour because it’s easy to get lost. From inside the forest, you can’t see anything outside, not even Mt. Fuji. Only the sun is visible.
After entering the forest, we walked about 15 min. to reach Fuji Wind Cave (Fuji Fuketsu 富士風穴), a lava tube with ice. Our guide had lent us overalls, a helmet with headlight, and rubber gloves for this excursion. (Don’t wear a skirt.) The cave entrance was narrow, steep, and pitch black (lower left photo). Despite the name, there’s no wind in the cave.
Once inside this lava tube, you can walk upright most of the way (lower right photo). It’s about 230 meters long. The ground was icy, wet, and slippery in November. Water dripped from the ceiling. The temperature was near freezing in November, but we had enough clothing.
Advance permission is required from the local Board of Education to enter Fuji Wind Cave. That’s why it’s best to go with a licensed guide. There are many lava tubes around Mt. Fuji. Fuji Wind Cave is not to be confused with the more touristy ones called Fugaku Wind Cave (富岳風穴) and Narusawa Ice Cave (鳴沢氷穴) near Lake Saiko.
As we hiked, our guide pointed out different signs of wildlife in the forest. Wild boar, deer, woodpeckers, etc. We didn’t see any animals though. (Didn’t see any suicide bodies or skeletal remains either. Our guide said we wouldn’t see any.)
Thanks to this excursion, my image of this misunderstood forest has changed forever for the better.
More photos of Aokigahara Forest: https://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=1060
English-speaking guide: https://www.the-highestpeak.com/english