Aokigahara: “A Beautiful Place To Die”
I came across a couple videos on YouTube ( vid 1 and vid 2) about Jukai (Aokigahara) the other day after I noticed a group of hits on my blog stats. I had done a post about the forest post seeing an episode of “Destination Truth” where the team from SCIFI went into the forest looking for ghosts.
Until that episode of the show I had never heard of Aokigahara, but the happenings there with all of the suicides made sense to me. The Japanese mindset that still persists today of “face” and honor re-enforces this suicidal tendency as well as the aesthetic that the Japanese have for death and it’s potential beauty.
Of course many of these people today are at their wits end and certainly not going there just out of a feeling of honor. Most are depressed, upset, and generally mentally ill. But, the “idea” of a beautiful, peaceful, and harmonious suicide seems to have taken root in the current Japanese psyche. Much of this stems from a book that I likely referenced before in my last post. The name of that book is Kuroi Jukai by Seichō Matsumoto, which has star crossed lovers taking their lives in the forest as a pastoral end.
Now, as you may know, the Japanese culture has a fairly violent and dark undercurrent as opposed to its rather placid exterior. The internal workings of the Japanese mind may in fact be a very dark place indeed. Of course the same can be said for many places including the US. So, lets just say that all humanity has this dark space, but, the Japanese kind of have made it an art.. Like Manga or Anime. This of course can be seen in their media like those mentioned or in movies like “Suicide Club” which I have referenced before.
I suppose though, that the overall feeling behind an honorable death is to give it some meaning. A death with meaning removes the randomness or meaninglessness of life altogether I suspect. The peacefulness and beauty aspects I have seen in the actions of the Samurai. A samurai commonly wrote a death poem before going into battle or committing Seppuku to give meaning to the death and to settle their mind as well as show their grace in the face of their demise. All of these things are seen as the duality of Zen Buddhism, the basis for the Samurai way that became Bushido.
Even a life-long prosperity is but one cup of sake;
A life of forty-nine years is passed in a dream;
I know not what life is, nor death.
Year in year out-all but a dream.
Both Heaven and Hell are left behind;
I stand in the moonlit dawn,
Free from clouds of attachment.
In fact, I would not be surprised if I found through some digging, that there might indeed be some death poems found in Aokigahara.
Now, having delved somewhat into the mind set, lets look at the forest today and what seems to be playing out now. Since the SCIFI show, there has been an uptick in traffic that surrounds the forest and expeditions going there looking for a good fright. One of those sites is on funzu.com (WARNING IMAGES ARE SOMEWHAT DISTURBING) where my lead picture above comes from. It seems that on first blush, this picture and the others on the site may indeed show actual remains. However, I think I am somewhat incredulous about the hanging bodies.
My problem with the hanging photos is that they look to be staged and not real dead weight bodies on rope. In fact in one case the string looks too light to hold an adult body and in two of the others, the bodies are leaning/crouching and thus would not have been sufficient to actually kill someone who’s arms were not pinned behind them say.
Good try guys…
In fact, when you watch the YouTube video you will see the Danish guys saying that they think that some of the ropes etc that they are seeing are actually just props. I could see this being the case as people would like to draw attention to the forest and scare others. However, much of the errata that seems to be found on the ground if you look around actually seems to be personal effects of people who have just wandered into the trees looking to disappear.
It is little wonder that this place, a place thought to be haunted by demons, now is so charged with “ghost” activity, if there is any such thing. I suppose on the quantum level, I can grok the whole notion. Since matter and energy are interchangeable why not huh? It’s just rather hard to prove or disprove for that matter.
In any event, given the economic distress still ongoing in Japan, the insular nature of the current generation of Japanese, and the overall rigidity of their culture, I expect an uptick in suicides at Aokigahara in the foreseeable future.