The dense Aokigahara Forest lies at the northwestern base of Mount Fuji, the iconic, near-symmetrical cone-shaped mountain that rises in eastern Japan. It holds the grim distinction of being the second-most popular destination for people intent on dying by suicide. Despite this, it’s a peaceful place to hike and enjoy nature.
The Aokigahara Forest is made up mostly of hemlock fir, Japanese cypress, and other evergreen needle-leaf trees. Because it is so dense and easy to get lost in, for centuries it has been a popular place for the desperate to go to end their lives. There are signs throughout the forest warning people of the danger of getting lost here, and asking them to seek help if they’re feeling suicidal. Many Japanese people believe that the forest is haunted.
Keen hikers can go to Aokigahara independently and explore at their own pace. Alternatively, some sightseeing tours around Fuji and the Fujigoko region include a stop at Aokigahara. There’s a fun cave to explore that can only be accessed on a guided tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- If you do happen to come across the remains of someone who has died here, report your discovery to the local authorities.
- For your safety, stick to the marked trails throughout the forest.
- A popular walking route follows a marked track from the Fugaku Wind Cave to the Ice Cave.
The most convenient way of reaching Aokigahara from Tokyo is by bus. Take the JR Bus Kanto from Tokyo Station, or the Basuta Shinjuku from Shinjuku Station, and get off at Kawaguchiko. Each trip takes about two hours. From Kawaguchiko, take a local bus to Aokigahara, or hike there.
When to Get There
While it’s possible to visit at any time, Japan’s winters are cold and it’s common to find snow at ground level around Mount Fuji in the winter. Mid-summer can be very hot and humid. For the most comfortable hiking conditions, visit in spring or autumn.
Hike Up Mount Fuji
In the summer, Mount Fuji is covered in climbers. Most start their ascent from the fifth station part-way up the mountain, but adventure-lovers can begin from the pilgrim’s route that monks traditionally followed, starting at the base of the mountain. This adds a full day of walking to the normal two-day climb, but the more gentle rise in altitude can be a good option for fit hikers.