New Films To Shed Light On Japan's Infamous ‘Suicide Forest’

Aokigahara is a large, 14 square mile expanse of forest in the Koshinetsu region at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan.

It is beautiful, dense and tangled - it’s sometimes called the ‘sea of trees’ - and boasts ice caverns hidden in its volcanic rock.

But it has become known for a much more dark and tragic reason – it’s also been called 'the suicide forest’, a place where up to 1988, around 100 suicides would occur each year.

A new movie, starring 'Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer, has now been unveiled called 'The Forest’, a horror thriller which finds Dormer searching for her twin sister who has gone missing in Aokigahara.

In doing so, she is confronted by angry spirits of the dead.

Watch the trailer below.

As horror movie material goes, it’s a macabre gift to its writer David S. Goyer, who penned Christopher Nolan’s 'Batman’ movies, largely because of the dark folklore which surrounds the area.

In 2003, 105 bodies of suicide victims were found in the forest, and 108 the following year. In 2010, it emerged that 200 people had attempted suicide there, 54 tragically succeeding. It’s said that the numbers increase at the end of Japan’s fiscal year.

Such was the growing problem with suicides in the forest, the local government stopped issuing the numbers of people found there hoping break the association, and placed signs at the entrance urging those in despair to reconsider their actions and to seek help.

But the dark past of the forest goes back long before this.

It’s said that the practice of 'ubasute’ may have occurred there in the 19th century during times of drought and famine, where elderly relatives would be taken to the forest and abandoned, left to die as a form of euthanasia.

Amazingly, 'The Forest’ is not the only film about Aokigahara that has been made this year.

'The Sea Of Trees’, directed by 'Good Will Hunting’s Gus Van Sant, was unveiled as Cannes this year and is a more sensitive reflection on this mythology.

It stars Matthew McConaughey as an American man travelling to the forest to take his life, where he meets Takumi (Ken Watanabe), a Japanese man wanting to do the same.

The film has yet to receive a UK release while 'The Forest’ is due out on February 26 next year.

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Image credits: Rex Features/Focus/Lionsgate