Aokigahara Forest is built up upon lava that was spewed from Mount Fuji in 864 CE, its last major eruption. From this hardened rock, a thriving and dense forest has emerged, one which stretches for 30 square kilometers. The porous lava bedrock absorbs sound and adds to the sense of isolation you may feel whilst trekking through this untamed land.
The closest train station is Kawaguchiko, and from there it is a 30-40 minute drive depending on traffic.
Because the area has remained largely untouched, wildlife that is now extremely rare in Japan, still live and thrive there. Whilst you may be lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of a Japanese mink, wild boar or the reclusive small Japanese mole, Asian black bears are also known to prowl the area, so be wary. Birdwatchers might also get lucky and see anything from an oriental turtle-dove to one of the several species of cuckoo that inhabit the tree tops.
Unfortunately, the forest also has a much darker appeal to some people, as it attracts large number of people planning to commit suicide.
Whether this is due to the somber atmosphere of the sound dampening forests, or its vastness and likelihood of not being interrupted, in 2010 alone 200 people attempted to commit suicide in the forest, with 54 going through with it. Inspiring both folklore and popular culture, the darker side of the forest has inspired a number of novels, TV shows and films in Japan, and in Japanese folklore, it is believed that yurei, a kind of tormented ghost, haunt the area.
In an attempt to dissuade people from taking their own lives, signs are put up around the entrances to the forest, urging people to think of their loved ones before doing anything rash. Local officials have also stopped publishing their records in recent years, in an attempt to stop people associating the forest with such traumatic events.
It is a real shame that the forest has such a tainted reputation, as it is in many respects an untouched paradise. Besides the forest, there are several interesting caves to explore, including Narusawa Ice Cave, Fugaku Wind Cave and two separate lava caves near the foot of Mount Fuji.