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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

The perfect place to die is …

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… how Aokigahara was described in Wataru Tsurumui’s bestselling book The Complete Manual of Suicide. (1) A dense, dark forest bordering Mt. Fuji, Aokigahara is infamous throughout Japan as a popular spot for those taking their final journey. In 2002, 78 bodies were found within it, replacing the previous record of 73 in 1998. By May of 2006, at least 16 new suicides had already been found. (2) More than a few of them were even carrying copies of Tsurumui’s book. No one knows how many bodies go undiscovered. Signs emblazoned with messages such as “Please reconsider” and “Please consult the police before you decide to die!” are nailed to trees throughout the forest. However, the woods have such a reputation that these minor deterrents do little to stop the determined. Local residents say they can always tell who is going into the forest hunting after the macabre and who is planning never to return.

Part of the appeal is dying at the foot of the sacred Mt. Fuji. Part of it is the foreboding nature of Aokigahara, so dense and thick that from just a few kilometers inside it no sounds can be heard other than those produced by the forest itself. Aokigahara is considered the most haunted location in all of Japan, a purgatory for yurei, the unsettled ghosts of Japan who have been torn unnaturally soon from their lives and who howl their suffering on the winds. (3) Spiritualists say that the trees themselves are filled with a malevolent energy, accumulated from centuries of suicides. They don’t want you to go back out. (4)

Forestry workers rotate in and out of shifts at a station building in Aokigahara, and occasionally they will come upon unfortunate bodies in various states of decomposition, usually hanging from trees or partially eaten by animals. The bodies are brought down to the station, where a spare room is kept especially for such occasions. In this room are two beds: one for the corpse and one for someone to sleep next to it. It is thought that if the corpse is left alone, the lonely and unsettled yurei will scream the whole night through, and the body will move itself into the regular sleeping quarters. (5)Zack Davisson, seekjapan, jp

(1)

The Complete Manual of Suicide(Japanese:完全自殺マニュアル) is a Japanese book written by Wataru Tsurumi. It was first published on the 4th of July, 1993 and sold more than one million copies. This 198 page book provides explicit descriptions and analysis on a wide range of suicide methods such as overdosing, hanging, jumping, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc. Moreover, this is not a suicide manual for the terminally ill. There is no preference shown for painless or dignified ways of ending one’s life. The book provides matter-of-fact assessment of each method in terms of the pain it causes, effort of preparation required, the appearance of the body and lethality.

Tsurumi covered 11 categories of suicide methods:
Overdosing
Hanging
Self-defenestration
Slashing the wrist and carotid artery
Car collision
Gas Poisoning
Electrocution
Drowning
Self-immolation
Freezing
Miscellaneous

All chapters begins with a graph assessing the method in question in terms of: the pain it causes, effort of preparation required, the appearance of the body, the disturbance it may cause for others and its deadliness. Each of these matters is also rated by skulls, with 5 skulls indicating the highest rating.

In 2003, Fukutani Osamu, inspired by the book, made the movie ‘The Suicide Manual.’


the complete film (in French)


the complete film (in English) VOD here


Suicide Forest in Japan (Full Documentary)

 

(3)

Ghost Radar, by Japanese Technology, catches Ghost in Aokigahara!

‘You can search Ghost using Baketan! Simply, push the button. Then it starts searching for Ghosts! It keeps blinking for about 10 seconds. If the circumstance around you is normal, it ends blinking (shortly, it blinks 3 times in the end.) oh, you can feel ease =) HOWEVER! if something unusual, it cautions you by blinking in red continuously with some buzzer sounds!!

It’s in danger!! Get out of the place you stand! Or if you have to stay there, keep pausing the button for some seconds, then, BAKETAN safe mode starts to expel some Ghost out of your body! Go out in Aokigahara midnight and find Ghost but beware of being posed by Ghosts or Devils!! Once you find something untouchable horrible existence, push the BAKETAN and protect by its safe mode.’

 

(4)

‘Walking into the forest to take photographs (see: below), we found a long piece of string; someone’s previous path in and out (we hoped). My mobile phone, while working at the car, no longer had signal – its GPS menu not working also.

‘We took an extra handheld GPS unit to ensure we could return. It often stopped working when we went low into some rocks. We would climb out and it would tell us to walk in one direction, and off we would go. Loosing satellites as we again went down into the rocks. Once again we would acquire some satellites and it would tell us to head off in a different direction. Or was it?

‘After an hour of trying to get out we came across our own footsteps in the snow. While not panicking, I was concerned now. Another 30 minutes of trudging up and down the snow covered rocks, we came upon a snow-bound tennis court. Backing into Aokigahara, it was on side-street off the path where we had parked the car… We never saw the string again.’ — Urban Exploration Resource

 

(5)
SUICIDE STATISTICS FOR JAPAN IN 2019 *

HANGING 12,438
DRUGS 63
POISONING 1,256
GAS POISONING 1,059
ELECTROCUTION 77
IMMOLATION 888
EXPLOSION 1
SHOOTING 46
EDGED TOOL 613
DROWNING 1,822
JUMPING(FROM HEIGHT) 2,210
THROWING(INTO TRAIN,ETC) 1,188
OTHER 406
UNSPECIFIED 37

TOTAL 22,104
* source: Japan National Police Agency

 

Comix

El Torres & Gabriel Hernandez Walta The Suicide Forest
‘Just outside of Tokyo lies Aokigahara, a vast forest and one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Japan… which is also the most famous suicide spot in the entire world. Legend has it that the spirits of those many suicides are still roaming—haunting deep in those ancient woods. This series from the creators of the acclaimed The Veil examines the lives of Alan, an average worker from Tokyo and his rather unhealthy relationship with Masami, and Ryoko, a forest ranger who recovers the suicide victim’s bodies from the woods. We discover that behind Ryoko’s unconcerned surface lies a secret, and these three lives will be forever changed by the darkness waiting for them in the Suicide Forest.’

 

Desiree Bressend & Ruben Gil Call of the Suicide Forest
‘The sequel to the acclaimed graphic novel! Portia, an American student overwhelmed by her life, prepares to commit suicide in Japan’s notorious “suicide forest” of Aokigahara. The living and dead who make this forest their home will begin a struggle not only for Portia’s life… but also for her soul! Every issue of this miniseries features a connecting cover by Toni Fejzula!’

 


Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service
‘Five college grads decide to create an company that gets involved with the supernatural as well as the last wishes of the recently deceased.’

 

El Torres Tales From the Suicide Forest
‘The immense forest of Aokigahara lies in Japan, impressive in its beauty – and scary because of its legends and the many horror stories it harbors. This book contains two horrific ghost stories, complementing the graphic novel “The Suicide Forest”.’

 

Movies


Trailer: The Forest (2015)


Trailer: THE SEA OF TREES (2016)


Trailer: Suicide Forest Village (2020)
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*

p.s. Hey. ** h (now j), Hi, J. My pleasure, you’re welcome, how curious: the timing. Hm, I don’t think I have a favorite Mekas film. He’s one of those filmmakers where I’m interested in what he does and how whereby each film becomes another example of that to me or something. Although, like you, I do like ‘Lost, Lost, Lost’ especially. You’re writing on Mekas too? Wow, you are being very productive, which is, you know, fantastic. Oh, yeah, I’m heavily relying on galleries these days since they’re basically the only art-based IRL experience available these days. ** David Ehrenstein, Lovely thoughts on Mekas, thank you so much! RIP Phil Spector. His death turned virtue signallers into an insurgency yesterday, at least in my feed. ** David S. Estornell, And to you a wish for a great week ahead. ** Dominik, Hi, D!!! 90% of escort profile texts, Hungarians’ included, are a slight variation on this: I’m attractive, I’m nice, I have a good cock and a great ass, I top or bottom or both, you’ll have a great time, just be hygienic.’ Then I hereby christen you Od. Ha ha. Weird, I just an article about foetuses that eat other foetuses in the womb. Love building a giant womb prop in its living room and hiring two escorts to crawl inside and pretend to eat each other as love jacks off, Dennis. ** _Black_Acrylic, Thank you, and enjoy! And mega-kudos for an excellent latest Play Therapy session. It made walking around in my semi-locked down apartment feel like clubbing. Your pitch does sounds like a total winner. Let me/us know if they wisely bite. ** Misanthrope, Hi. Yeah, I understand. I guess it just seems like a fait accompli or something. And you just have to behave on social media as if you’re still living with your parents or something. Huh, I didn’t expect a revenge comedy based on that title, so that’s cool. Opioids?! Dude, talking about slippery slopes, whoa. Let’s hope that, in his case, that 9 lives aphorism or whatever has a bunch of 0’s after it. I still await your ‘Louie Louie’ youtube debut. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Impossible to tell about escorts’ sincerity always, but I think the MAGA references are probably rooted in some form of reality. Chic = classy always, no? ** Shane Christmass, Hey! Awesome, thank you hugely for the playlist! Excellent about your AS book, and with Mr. Purtill on board! And very soon too. AS is kind of the exact center of excitement these days. ‘The Gaudy Image’ is a rather really nice title. Everyone, Here’s a playable playlist of Disco tracks curated by the unimpeachable writer/taste maker Mr. Shane Christmass. Don’t hesitate.’ ** Brian O’Connell, Hi, Brian. I had thought Mekas’s stuff was pretty inaccessible, which why I waited so long to a Day about him, and I was truly surprised by how many of this films are watchable if you forage around out there. Most people I know who love Bolano tell me the best place to start is ‘The Savage Detectives’, so I think I’m going to begin there as it’s less daunting than cracking the massive ‘2666’. Yes, we got a good three or so hours of snow, although followed up by rain that had completely erased it by nightfall. But still. My weekend was no big. My friend Zac got back to Paris is almost totally healthy again, so that’s huge. Worked on this fiction/novella thing I’ve been fooling around with for months, and it seemed to progress. Did the Zoom bookclub thing with my US friends. That was great. Not bad overall, I suppose. Beanbag chair! Cool, I miss those. (I haven’t seen one much less plunked down on one for years.) May your week have started with magnificence! ** Okay. Don’t let today’s post give you any funny ideas. See you tomorrow.


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14 Comments

  1. Hey, Dennis. Visited there in 2009. Walked around for an afternoon. Very easy to get lost. Jukka Siikala’s done some interesting work based on his visits to the forest – http://thanatischemanifestationen.blogspot.com/2016/01/interview-jukka-siikala.html and of course https://www.infinitylandpress.com/product-page/ecstatic-nausea-by-jukka-siikala. I am happy to have one of his Polaroids of items he found there. Best.

  2. enigmatic post, Dennis! Today I’m a bit too work-driven and errand-filled also, but it’s meditative to think about this subject. How intricate it is… suicide prep.

    Ah, re my work on Mekas, it’s a part of work (between cinema and poetry) I’m gradually developing for a book-long project these years. (I’m happy about my angles and methods, but we will see. I’m very slow right now.) In any case, I don’t think Mekas is my favorite artist (emotionally and formally) though I admire his unorthodox (or divergent) contributions to the world of film art.

    I’m glad you are able to visit galleries. Which galleries do you go to? I’d like to look at their viewing rooms if you’d recommend. I hear Covid situation here will become worse in February and March, so I must get out a bit now after this MLK holiday, I suppose. But, alas, it’s already covid-red (crimson, not orange) in my south Brooklyn neighborhood…very sad to think about…

  3. Today is kind of a gian footnote to PGL.
    Regarding Spector, I do wish someone would ask ronnie about him, not to mention Cher. i love the way Cher always called him “Phillip”

    Here’swhat might be caled “Vic Signalling’ from the new York Times Not sure if y’all followed the seth Rich story, but the fact that the family is being paid for all the ies FOX “News” hurled at them is Step one.
    Step Two is closing down FOX once and for all.

  4. Hi!!

    “In this room are two beds: one for the corpse and one for someone to sleep next to it.” Well, this is a little morbid. It must be a lovely part of any job description.

    Not very creative, the escorts, but they get the message across, I guess, haha.

    Huh. This IS weird. First, the charming but awful poet and then the foetuses eating other foetuses… There’s some weird connection going on here, haha.

    I saw that you mentioned Bolano’s “The Savage Detectives.” I’m currently reading it and – having read “2666” before – I do think it’s a good place to start.

    Hahaha, this love put some serious energy into his session! Love realizing that he accidentally really did consume his escort partner in the womb prop and even liked it a little bit, Od.

  5. That’s great news about Zac! Thanks also about the recent Play Therapy, it’s very much appreciated x

  6. Dennis, I’m feeling like I’d prefer to die in a place where a bunch of others aren’t dying. Maybe there’s something communal in this for people? Though I’ll probably die in a hospital like almost everyone else ever, so there’s that. 😛

    Yeah, don’t know what to do with David. They crush them up and snort them and then nod out and knock TVs over and shit. He refuses to work (remember that the whole point of getting him a car was so that he could work). Just depending on these stimulus checks and shit. And then the music turned up full volume at 3 a.m. and shit. Bathroom floor soaked with water every time he goes in there—and he’s in there half the day.

    Ugh.

    Hahaha, yeah, I’m a hold off on the “Louie Louie” YouTube video for now. Thanks for the request, though. But someday, yes, someday. 😀

  7. Hi Dennis. Happy Monday!

    Such a great post today! Uncanny coincidence – I was listening to the singles off an album, Death Training, by a Japanese hardcore musician called Kyoufu Shimbun (‘Newspaper of Fear’), which has a really similar concept to the suicide manual. Each track is conceived after a different method of death, although the methods tend to be more grotesque and cartoonish (eg. High Pressure Squashing) than those in Tsurumi’s manual. In case you’re interested it’s at https://bitterlakerecordings.bandcamp.com/album/death-training.

    Anyway, that Wataru Tsurumi is a very interesting guy – one I admire a lot – after writing the manual he went on to write extensively about experiments in living completely outside of societal institutions, including any kind of money, which he still blogs about. Very much in an anarchist/communist tradition, but I find it really fascinating and more so how it’s developed in the Japanese context. I made a note to read some of his other stuff about a year ago, I need to get on it.

    Was also thinking how these kinds of suicide spots grow in tandem with and are like an abject, opposite symbol of certain cities – like Aokigahara and Tokyo, but also Beachy Head and London in the UK, and then also maybe the Golden Gate bride in San Francisco? Those were the only ones that came to my mind, but I’m sure there must be so many others. I guess they’re the most ideal for those who want a social as well as physical death, where their body is completely lost in the trees or otherwise obliterated into water, rather than remembered/categorised or otherwise dealt with by societies’ usual methods for handling and memorialising death.

    Which is all to say – the post was really great, and it kept me sane through a spirit-crushingly monotonous shift at the job. Wishing you a gorgeous day, T :))

  8. Have you seen THE SEA OF TREES? It has the reputation of being van Sant’s worst film. Or any of the other forest-related films?

  9. Hi Dennis, this post brought me back new years day in 2018 doing ketamine with my ex while watching Logan Paul discover a body in the aokigahara. I think the video may still be on Dailymotion – he is wearing a Toy Story claw machine alien beanie until they find someone hanging. Have you had the chance to read the chapbook “I Want To Be A Suicide Bomber” by Sherif Xenoph Ibn El / Somnambulist Situationists Istanbul (real name Zafer Aracagök)? You’re quoted in it briefly. Stay healthy and not too bored in lockdown.

    • ae and Dennis — I just googled “I Want To Be A Suicide Bomber” by Sherif Xenoph Ibn El / Somnambulist Situationists Istanbul and went down the best worm hole!

  10. Brian O’Connell

    January 19, 2021 at 6:11 am

    Happy MLK Day, Dennis,

    I’ve heard/read/seen so much about Aokigahara as someone who has a slightly-more-than-marginal interest in spooky, “haunted” spots. It’s a horrible, mesmerizing place. I remember its spike in the media a few years ago when that shithead teen-oriented vlogger went in there, found a corpse, and uploaded the footage for his millions of young fans to see. Ugh. I wonder about the cultural fascination with suicide (which I obviously experience myself) a lot. As documented this post, it really is a major issue in Japan, for a lot of complicated and probably vaguely unknowable reasons.

    “Savage Detectives” sounds great. I actually want to read a lot of his novels, so I’ll get around to it at some point. This week I’m probably going to read Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence” (Scorsese’s adaptation is one of my favorite movies), which should be fun. Ah, sorry to hear the snow dissipated with the rain, but at least you had some. Yay for Zac!!!! How wonderful. Ditto for progress on your new fiction. What book did you cover this time over Zoom? Merry Tuesday!

  11. Dennis!

    Happy birthday. I hope you had a great day. More generally, I hope your days have been lovely overall. Have they?

    Thanks so much for including A Task on your year-end list. I’m honored to know you enjoyed the book. If you end up wanting to have that hourlong conversation, let me know.

    We miss and love you!

  12. Dennis!

    Happy belated birthday. I hope you had a great day. More generally, I hope your days have been lovely overall. Have they?

    Thanks so much for including A Task on your year-end list. I’m honored to know you enjoyed the book. If you end up wanting to have that hourlong conversation, let me know.

    We miss and love you!

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