Japanese culture has the good and the ugly, and one that I would consider on the less… positive side is the high suicide rate. It fascinates me – this culture that allows for ending one’s life, when I came from a culture where ending your own life is one of the ultimate sins that will bring you eternal suffering in hell.
Either way. So we were talking about Aokigahara, the infamous suicide forest at the foot of Mt. Fuji. My professor mentioned that Arashiyama’s bamboo forest was also a suicide place, but since it got so famous, the influx of tourists made in unsuitable for suicide. Kind of difficult to kill yourself when so many tourists are passing through, right?
A less known tourist spot, the Kimono Forest is a pretty magical location right in front of the temple, right next to the train station in the middle of the shopping lane going from the main train station to the bridge. Pretty complicated? Hmmm.
About nine months ago, I remember a guy telling me to go to Fuji on May. That’s probably because of this – the grass sakura. I think it would have been majestic had Fuji-san graced us with her presence, but that is one elusive sight. Was it still worth it? For people who want to take a breather from the city, most definitely.
How to get there
From Kawaguchiko station (look at article Fujinomiya), go to Platform 7 for the Shibazakura. There’s a shuttle bus at JPY2000. That’s round trip, with entrance tickets included.
It’s a pity Aokigahara is famous for the suicide, when it is has a beautiful forests and plenty of caves. They have lava cave, wind cave and ice cave. We started with the Ice Cave, walked around 20 minutes to go to the Wind Cave, then walked around two hours across the forest.
It costs JPY600 to go to both caves, btw.
Narusawa Ice Cave
The cave is pretty small, and there’s an area that is around 3/4 of a meter high, so better practice your squats before coming here.
The wind cave path is right behind the toilet! Turn right, then walk for around 20 minutes. I doubt you’ll get lost. Don’t go off the trail!
Once we got there, I kind of got confused why it’s called a wind cave. Really. It looked just like the Ice Cave!
I am not a superstitious person but I’m pretty easy to scare. So when I knew I was walking into what is known as “Suicide Forest”, I was pretty scared. I kept on thinking that I’ll see some personal effects of those who have left. About five minutes later, I was kinda hoping. No luck.
How to get there
There’s a pass you can buy at the ticket booth in Kawaguchiko station for a two day unlimited pass for JPY1300. It passes through the Aokigahara area, and some parts north of the Kawaguchiko river. As one way fare to Aokigahara is JPY670, we decided to just buy the pass.
Superstitious or not, we were careful to follow the directions.
Now, after our trip, that’s when I started to read on Aokigahara. Here are some items I’ve learned:
This place has been mentioned in literature, one of which was the manual for suicide (in Japanese). So people actually go here. About a decade ago, they usually find a hundred bodies here (take note, find). However, with how famous the place has become, they stopped publishing the numbers.
The reason why it’s scary? It’s unnaturally quiet. As it is very dense, it probably serves as noise cancellation. Did I feel it? Nope. I am not a quiet person. So my friend and I were talking the ENTIRE time, sometimes with music. In hindsight, I’ll probably be scared had I been alone.
There are signs discouraging people from suicide. I didn’t see one – or maybe I saw one but didn’t recognize it as it’s in Japanese. But I did see a lot of “do not go off the trail” signs.
Years and years ago, they even had the practice of leaving people here to die. That and with all the suicides, the atmosphere is believed to be “malevolent”. Oh, and they even have a practice (based on one blog) where one person sleeps next to a dead body when found to appease the evil spirit.
With six hours for my layover, there’s NO way I’m staying in the airport. Almost all nationalities can leave the airport if they have a 24 hour transit. Some nationalities even have 72 hours (not for Filipinos). Since my layover is from 6pm to 12mn, might as well have dinner in China, right?
There’s a separate lane for the 24/72 hour visa free entries. The girl at immigration speaks decent English, and that’s about all the English I encountered. I had a friend write some Chinese phrases, and boy were they helpful!
At the taxi stand, I talked to the lady helping everyone. She helped us hire a car for only CNY60. It took us 15 minutes (yes, I timed) to go to the restaurant another friend recommended.
Since the restaurant was full, my buddy and I decided to just walk around. We asked some people (they have a google translate-ish app they used to talk to us), and off to the lake we went.
Near the lake is a restaurant. Of course we didn’t order the weird stuff. We paid CNY96 in total.
Back to Xiamen Airport
We then flagged a cab, and it took us 20 minutes and CNY40 to get back. We were back to at the airport three hours before our flight, with the check in counter opening 10 minutes after we arrived.
The second stop of our touristic programme was the coal powered train. They are the oldest coal powered, operating train with a full kitchen, if I remember the organization’s head’s speech correctly. 😉
With the exception of the offloading issue, this European airport is a delight. I so loved ING’s campaign of ____, here I come. I initially saw this, not knowing it was a campaign. But it was so fitting. The next week was filled with culture shock!
On my way back, I saw it again. This time, with Tokyo, here I come! Which I found funny ‘coz I AM going to Tokyo.
They had plenty of food, and since I’m a Diners card holder, I was able to maximize the benefits of having that credit card.
Schiphol Airport has plenty of shops and stalls to choose from. I thought that I bought a cheap set of perfume at EUR50 for two bottles, but my classmate said they weren’t cheap. But my fellow flier bought one bottle at CHF90 in Zurich Airport. Well, it’s all relative.
and just some quick comments about Zurich airport – they have plenty of Toblerones! Well, as expected from the motherland of Toblerone:
One of the few temples/castles (?) in Okinawa, Shuri Castle is a very famous one. Since I’m already in Naha, I figured I might as well go.
It took me a while to find it as I decided to walk rather than pay the JPY100ish bus, and the main entrance the google maps was pointing at is closed for renovation. Hence, I had to go around the castle, and boy, was it a big castle.
PS. Eat before coming here! The food in the cafeteria is NOT good, and it’s such a waste when Naha’s food is one of the best there is!