My Journey Into Aokigahara Jukai (青木ヶ原 樹海) – The Suicide Forest

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Disclaimer: Firstly, there are a lot of images and videos in this post, so I had to break it up into 10 pages to save loading time – you will see the page numbers on the bottom just before the comments section. Secondly, everything written below actually happened, nothing is fabricated.

Lastly, and most importantly, if you’ve happened upon this post and you live in Japan, keep an eye out for your close friends and talk to them if you think they might be having suicidal thoughts; here is a very helpful pdf which details the warning signs of someone who may be suicidal: Suicide First Aid Guidelines For Japan. Also, if you are having suicidal thoughts yourself, try to stay positive and remember that your pain is only temporary once you realise that others can help you – there is help out there. Please talk to your friends and loved ones, if there is nobody who you can trust, please visit the Tokyo Counselling website or the Japan Counseling directory and find a professional to talk to. Life is worth living, if you give it another chance, you might realise that too.

“Meaninglessness inhibits fullness of life and is therefore the equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything.” – C.G Jung

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aokigahara mt fuji

1200 years ago, Mt Fuji erupted for ten straight days. For the entire duration it spewed molten lava down its summit and casually layed waste to everything in its path. Many people perished, and a great number of homes were destroyed. Huge amounts of lava pooled up in a large lake at the foot of the volcano and divided it into two smaller lakes; Lake Saiko and Lake Shōjiko. Some time after the lava had dried, trees started to emerge out of the ruins, eventually making way for the 35 km2 forest known as Aokigahara Jukai (青木ヶ原 樹海), which translates as ‘The Sea of Trees’. Few could have predicted the darkness that would continue to surround it.

Today, an average of 100 bodies are found in its depths every year, and many are left undiscovered. Few people enter the forest, and those who do rarely return due to its reputation for having the second highest suicide rate in the world. Sadly, the forest has carried an association with death long before it became a popular place for suicide, as ubasute is believed to have been practiced there, which is an old Japanese tradition where the elderly and sick are carried up a mountain or into a forest and left to die – sort of like the story of Hansel and Gretel, except with old people.

The forest is known by many names: Aokigahara (青木ヶ原), Jukai (樹海), The Sea of Trees, the Suicide Forest, the Cursed Forest, the Black Forest, and finally the locals I asked in Japan called it ‘NOOO, don’t go there!’ while they made the shape of an X with their arms.
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Ted the Caver

Click here to read one of the scariest things you will ever read. It is a long short story (heh) about a caver called Ted and his experiences in a cave that he was exploring with a friend. Technically it’s not a short story, as it’s his first hand experience in the ‘mystery cave’, and is actually a chronological collection of his journal entries complete with photos he took. Ted was looking for a new cave to explore that no man or woman had explored before him, caving was the last frontier for explorers like him. However, what Ted finds in this cave is not what he expected at all, and will change him (and you!) for the rest of his life. It is a fairly long read and will take you about 30 minutes to an hour depending on how fast you read, but this is not a problem as the writing sucks you in and doesn’t let go for a second. It is a very engaging and chilling read!

I Spit on Your Grave Analysis (1978-2010)

Lisa the Vegetarian

This essay examines the exploitation film I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and its recent remake (2010), and how both these films make strong comments about the culture which they were released in and the context which they were interpreted. The original film was visually enhanced and re-released on Blu-Ray this year, and therefore, along with its remake stands as a contemporary text. The essay focuses on the cultural significance of the previously banned movie being remade for a modern audience, and the voyeuristic aspects of both films. The way the film represents meaning to the audience through sound and image will also be discussed, representation being defined as the ‘process by which meaning is produced and exchanged between members of a culture… [involving] the use of language… signs and images which stand for or represent things’ (1997, p. 15). The aim of this essay is to shed light on the social and cultural significance of horror films, which are braver in their exploration of society’s taboos, and the reasons why society needs these films, as evidenced by the recent trend of their remakes. The essay also aims to explore the feminist qualities I Spit on Your Grave contain, for the purpose of this essay feminism can be defined as ‘the advocacy of equality for the sexes, in opposition to patriarchy and sexism’ (Macionis & Plummer, 2008, p. 883).

 In the last decade swarms of horror films have risen from the ground in the form of remakes, these include:

(2003), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(2005), The Amityville Horror
(2006), The Hills Have Eyes
(2007), Halloween
(2009),
Friday the 13th
(2009), The Last House on the Left, and most recently
(2010), I Spit on Your Grave

Lizardi (2010, p.114-115) offers two suggestions as to why these films are being remade, one is that remakes are ‘commercial products that repeat successful formulas in order to minimize risk and secure profits in the market place’, while the other reason is that horror remakes have the potential ‘to reveal something to us about our recurrent fears, anxieties and hopes for the future’. Becker (2006, p. 47) contends with this view by suggesting that horror films represent ‘society’s collective nightmare’, which contain repressed issues that must be confronted and resolved.  It is worth noting that the original versions of these horror remakes mostly stem from the period of slasher films made in the 1970s, an era which was known for the carefree hippie generation and the contrasting bloodshed of the Vietnam War. Considering that ‘films are best understood in relation to the periods in which they were produced and consumed’ (Lizardi, 2010, p. 115), it is necessary for me to explore the culture that the original slasher films were unleashed upon, culture being defined simply as ‘the beliefs, values, behaviour and material objects that constitute a people’s way of life’ (Macionis & Plummer 2008, p. 882).

 With the hippie revolution dissipating, and the war in Vietnam alive and well, the American culture was slowly descending towards ‘the sinister, the heavy, and the darkly forbidden’ (Becker, 2006, p. 48). During these times, the catchy pop songs of the early 60s had been cancelled out by the dark sounds of The Doors and Led Zeppelin, while the film industry turned to horror with films like Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). These films revealed ‘a shift in the worldview of the hippie counterculture, which had its considerable hopes in the possibility of significant progressive social change undercut by immense social traumas of the late 1960s and early 1970s’ (Becker, 2006, p. 43). In the opening scene of Wes Craven’s infamous Last House On The Left (1972) one of the two female protagonists – before leaving to a Bloodlust concert – is given a necklace by her father, the camera zooms in as she puts it around her neck, revealing a silver peace symbol, a cultural icon of the hippie movement. The camera holds onto this image before fading into a fixed shot of a forest, showing the two girls frolicking towards the camera, serene music playing softly in the background. This scene is later juxtaposed when the two girls are kidnapped; the terror on the girls’ faces are shown in extreme close ups during the scenes of their rape and torture. The progression of violence is eventually capped off by showing a close up of the intestines of one of the girls being pulled out of her body; throughout all these scenes the camera is static and the music is dark and synthesized. This strong contrasting imagery represented the death of the hippie movement, and is a consistent motif of the horror films of the 70s. It was the filmmakers way of getting to the ‘guts’ of their films message, which was ‘there is a war going on, and blood is being spilled.’ A reality that was swept under the rug in the ignorant bliss of the 60s hippie counterculture.

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