The Sea of Trees

Disclaimer: This story was found in an earlier newsletter of ours, but some were not getting them yet and wanted to share it, so here it is.

The Aokigahara, or better known as the “Sea of Trees”, is a beautiful forest at the base of Mt. Fuji that got its name from the illusion it gives of waves in the ocean. However, these "waves" of leaves hide a very sad secret in their depths, leaving this location to be more infamous than famous. Nearly 100 years ago, a Buddhist monk traveled to this forest on a journey to reach a higher plane of enlightenment through fasting and seclusion. The lack of food actually resulted in his death, which started a trend for other monks who believed that the first must have achieved one of the highest states a Buddhist could aspire to. While monks are no longer found going here, the trend of death continues. Kuroi Jukai (translated ‘Sea of Trees’) is a 1960's Japanese novel in which a pair of young lovers take their lives together in the forest. Later in 1993, a handbook was written for the suicidal called The Complete Suicide Manual. The guide praises hanging (the most common method for those who perish among the Sea of Trees) as a “work of art” and called Aokigahara the ideal place to die because your body will be impossible to find and “You will become a missing person and slowly disappear from people’s memory.”

aokigahara sign.jpg

Today, an average of 100 bodies are removed from this ominous location each year, and that’s only counting the ones private parties find in this vast and dense 14 square mile area. It got so bad that since the early 2000’s the government doesn’t even report the number of deaths there. Rather, their solution is to post signs like the ones on the right and scatter phone boxes that connect to free helplines.

Given that over 24,000 people committed suicide just last year, there is still a lot of work to do; more is needed than a couple metal framed signs. The Japanese are losing a person to suicide every 15 minutes. Many of these same people have never heard the Gospel, and with less than 0.5% of Christians in Japan, there is almost no one to share this hope with them. It breaks our hearts to know people are leaving this world without knowing Jesus, and we know it breaks God’s heart as well.