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November 23, 2015

Aokigahara (青木ヶ原) is a relatively small forest on the northwest flank of Mount Fuji. It is more commonly known as the Suicide Forest because it is frequently used by those seeking to end their lives. Knowing this it is hard not to feel a little tingle trickle down your spine as you set off down one of the area's many trails. The primeval forest, blanketed in moss, shuts out all sound and the erie silence only adds to the macabre aura of the place. The dense volcanic rock is nearly impossible for the trees roots to penetrate so they grow on top. Surely J.R.R. Tolkien's inspiration for Ents came from this forest. The trees look almost alive as they stand on manifold appendages seeking stability from the wind and nourishment from the tumultuous landscape shaped by eons of Mount Fuji eruptions. The chaos, yet striking beauty, of the forest is hard to capture with a camera - there is so much depth, shadows, tricky lighting, and color that I believe to capture it on camera would require the supernal skills of a true artist, the likes of whom only come around once or twice in a century. I am certainly not this individual, so I will not pretend for even one moment that my photos could impart one tenth of the majesty of this place. Rather I hope that they would inspire one to visit this supernatural place.

The 'Sea of Trees' (another of its common names) is also the site of numerous caves, or lava tubes. While they are fun to explore you are now required to have a permit to enter them. One of the more popular caves used to have a stalagmite that resembled a certain male appendage. I use the word "used to" because a local TV crew thought it would funny to deface and remove the stalagmite. Presently if you are caught entering or exiting the lava tubes without a permit it will result in a stiff fine - consider yourself warned. For more info on the area as well as permit/guide info check out this site.

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Written by Isaac Tait who now lives in San Diego but dreams of returning, one day, to Japan. You should follow him on Twitter