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October 25, 2010 7:45 PM   Subscribe

"You think you die alone, but that's not true. Nobody is alone in this world. We have to co-exist and take care of each other." (Caution : Video contains images which some may find disturbing.)

The Aokigahara Forest is the most popular site for suicides in Japan. Over 100 bodies are found each year. The authorities sweep for them only on an annual basis, as the forest sits at the base of Mt. Fuji and is too dense to patrol more frequently.

"Your life is a precious gift from your parents. Please think about your parents, siblings, and children. Don't keep it to yourself. Talk about your troubles."
posted by crunchland (39 comments total) 76 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a powerful video, but please please please be cautious about viewing. There are numerous images of people who have committed suicide.
posted by jefficator at 7:58 PM on October 25, 2010


That was weirdly beautiful, and surprisingly life-affirming, as well as being deeply disturbing.
posted by MrVisible at 8:11 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have no words.
posted by wv kay in ga at 8:28 PM on October 25, 2010


That was so moving. Beautiful and profoundly sad.
posted by empatterson at 8:30 PM on October 25, 2010


I watched this too! It's definitely a powerful video.

I really admire the worker who goes around finding the bodies and looking for people thinking about suicide. He seems like someone many people could really learn something about life from.
posted by elder18 at 8:31 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Previously.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:33 PM on October 25, 2010


That forest has an air of creepiness around it; it's a wonder that fellow doesn't have nightmares.

I hope this video helps at least some people step away from the abyss.
posted by bwg at 8:35 PM on October 25, 2010


Good post. The narrator was very compassionate and the theme poignant. I find it interesting that some people consider suicide a brave or strong act of self-determination while others consider it selfish and cowardly. Using a map and travelling to the remote forest for this act is clearly more than a symbolic gesture that you feel unconnected with most of human society. But since the forest is famous for it suicides you are also expressing some fellow-feeling with those like-minded people who also felt they have lived long enough. The narrator says "nobody is alone in this world" but another perspective says that fundamentally every one of us is alone.
posted by binturong at 8:45 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not going to watch this at work, but I will later. The thing is, last night on my way home from school, someone jumped in front of the train at the station closest to the school. When I got to the top of the escalator (raised platforms), the train was stopped right there, as if the guy had sprinted up the stairs to jump. The crowd gathered to watch the cleanup was large, and dispiriting. I'm lucky in that it's only the second train suicide I've nearly witnessed in Japan in ten years. I know/knew other people that weren't so lucky. One friend was standing, waiting for the train, and the man next to her jumped. She went back to Canada the next week, after having been here for years.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:49 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mount Everest has around 200 dead bodies.

From, the geniuses, I suppose, at Bodybuilding.com.
posted by The Giant Squid at 9:00 PM on October 25, 2010


A difficult film, but what a good man. Thanks for posting this.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:12 PM on October 25, 2010


1972 or so, I was stationed at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. I was working on the psych ward, most of the folks we got were sent back from 'Nam.

I was working the midnight shift.

One morning, after spending a night learning how to juggle (hey, we had to kill time on that shift!) I left to go home... My bike was parked out front of the building, I put on my helmet and started my Yamaha... as I pulled away from the building I glanced towards the building, which had a swimming pool off to the side.. I noticed something strange.

I got off the bike, went to the fence and saw that there was a body hanging from the canopy over the pool. I climbed the fence around the pool, started yelling for help, and ran to the edge.

The body was hanging about 3 or 4 feet off the edge, the rope attached to a cross piece of the canopy over the pool....

By then someone had heard me and come out of the building, we could barely reach the legs of the guy hanging there... we pulled him in, he was stiff...we hung on, someone cut the rope, we laid him on the edge of the pool. Someone suggested that we do CPR, someone else pointed out that he was stiff, CPR probably wouldn't do much good...

We spent the next day or so writing reports.

The man in this video noted that he had found 100 or so bodies... no fun, no fun at all. One was enough for me.
posted by HuronBob at 9:19 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is seriously an asshole thing to say.
Flippant, I grant you. But truly I find the extreme reaction to unexpected death incomprehensible. We hide from death, deny it, warn people to be cautious about viewing a film showing dead bodies -- at the same time we celebrate the most obnoxious violence and sadism in mainstream entertainment. I understand that seeing a real death is traumatic but I do not understand the response of fleeing a country! Death is one of the few things we can be certain of but most people seem to spend a lot of time living in fear of that inescapable fact and wishing never to experience it. That was the point I was trying to make, obviously not very successfully. I think this is a modern western attitude as people in the past -- and in many countries still today -- were much more used to seeing dead bodies. I find death sad, but not scary.
posted by binturong at 9:26 PM on October 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


binturong, you seem to be talking about death as an abstraction. My friend saw someone not only die, but jump, of their own volition, in front of a commuter train. She wasn't big into violent games or movies. She was pretty much a normal, happy person. From what I heard, it took her years of therapy back home to get over what she saw.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:34 PM on October 25, 2010


It's interesting to note that the Aokigahara Forest is only the second most popular place for suicides in the world. Number one? Why, our very own Golden Gate Bridge.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:36 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, a good man questions sad deaths and does not come up with easy answers. I question the acts of those who torture other humans almost every day. I would like to understand these people. I cannot. I like to think that suicides are simply unable to come up with a rational or emotional reasons for continuing their tragic existence, but I know there is more to it. So does this good man.

Torture and abuse are harder for me to understand, because I am intrinsically predisposed to believe that humans are basically good. What horrific impulses lead humans to behave so terribly? Simple belief systems are helpful in helping people answer such difficult questions.
posted by kozad at 9:41 PM on October 25, 2010


Very poignant video. Best geologist I've ever seen, and he's not even geologizing.

WaPo on how a train operator is affected by "suicide by train". (2009)

Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Barrier Project
, Study archives, the project is still on. It has faced opposition for years.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:56 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do not understand the response of fleeing a country!

I think it was less fleeing Japan than going home to a place here she felt at home. Note how the original passage said she went "back" to Canada, implying that this was a place that the witness had some familiarity with. It is not an uncommon, nor unhealthy, reaction to death to seek out family and friends.
posted by wayofthedodo at 9:57 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


binturong: “ We hide from death, deny it, warn people to be cautious about viewing a film showing dead bodies... I think this is a modern western attitude...”

Because nobody in ancient Japan feared death?

I've heard this "western culture" thing before. I think it would be ridiculous even if there were such a thing as "western culture." There is not. There are many things we don't have in common, things that are certainly not part of our common experience. But fear of death is part of our common experience.
I am guided here by a story I once heard about Leontius, son of Aglaion. On the road outside the city, he noticed the bodies of some criminals lying on the ground, with the executioner standing beside them. He wanted to look at the ghastly sight, but at the same time he was disgusted by his morbid curiosity and tried to turn away. He struggled for some time, but at last the desire was too much for him. Opening his eyes wide, he ran up to the bodies and cried "There, wretched eyes! Feast yourselves on the lovely sight!"
– Plato, Republic IV.439 [circa 380 BC]
Death has always been a terrifying and horrific thing. And dealing with it takes bravery and humanity. I agree that there are things our culture could do better.

I don't mean any of this sternly; I agree completely that we shouldn't get the idea that this is exclusively a Japanese thing, or that this isn't something we struggle with in our western countries. I just believe strongly that this is something we face together.

Finally, I imagine a Japanese person – or a person from Senegal, or a person from the Kashmir, or a person from just about anywhere – might want to go home after seeing something like that. No matter where home might be.
posted by koeselitz at 10:06 PM on October 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's interesting to note that the Aokigahara Forest is only the second most popular place for suicides in the world. Number one? Why, our very own Golden Gate Bridge.

Yep, and there's a movie for that, too. The Bridge (warning, link auto-plays music) was a controversial but highly interesting look at suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge (IMDB).

I liked it a little more than this film because the other side of the story--those who tried to suicide but failed--is presented along with the side that's the folks who find the bodies. The failed suicides in The Bridge are able to tell you what attracts them to the location, what their stressors were, and speak directly, through the camera, to those who are also suicidal.

Those are things that I would have liked to see in this short film on Aokigahara Forest (mainly, the answer to why this location from those who chose it). Then again, it is a short and well-thought piece on its own.
posted by librarylis at 10:25 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


That was weirdly beautiful, and surprisingly life-affirming, as well as being deeply disturbing.
posted by MrVisible at 8:11 PM on October 25


What he said.
and
.
posted by Lukenlogs at 10:58 PM on October 25, 2010


It's people like the narrator of this film who reaffirm life's worth living.
posted by maxwelton at 11:20 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, that was incredibly beautiful, moving, and disturbing video. Fortunately, it wasn't as gruesome as I had feared. The man in the film seems like a really gentle, humble, nice man. Thanks for posting.
posted by 1000monkeys at 1:21 AM on October 26, 2010


“Life is Worth Living”

Proclaims one of two rust-frilled signs placed one-eighth of a mile
in either direction across the Mid-Hudson Bridge—
statistically the likeliest spot they’ll be seen
by the four people every year
who need the message most.
The call box waits
one hundred and thirty-five feet above
the glittering rippled river, dumb to
the thrum of passing tires bumping over
steeltoothed expansion joints,
whipping wind and gulls’ cries.
What drives someone to this place?
The divorce, the layoff, the drugs, the voices
repeating over and over that there is
no end, no escape, the way out is down,
down, a hiss and a splash or a flat smack to
blackness.
It is one way out, but consider the phone.
The call box waits still,
the hinged door half-
open—
a welcome of sorts, an invitation . . .
a few miles away, someone sits
on the other end, drinking coffee,
hoping to talk
to you.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:10 AM on October 26, 2010 [14 favorites]


I was left wondering if anything more had been done for that man in the tent. It seemed very likely he was there for suicide. I hope the visit by from the nature guard was enough to shake him up and get him to reconsider.

Very moving film.
posted by orme at 5:54 AM on October 26, 2010


That was a really affecting video. Perhaps oddly (and perhaps not) it reminded me of the (to my mind) undeservedly-reviled film The Bridge. It certainly engendered similar feelings in me.

Sadly, the honourably-intended declaration that no one dies alone isn't true. People do. Lots of people do.
posted by Decani at 6:01 AM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry, librarylis - I see you already mentioned The Bridge
posted by Decani at 6:03 AM on October 26, 2010


I was left wondering if anything more had been done for that man in the tent. It seemed very likely he was there for suicide. I hope the visit by from the nature guard was enough to shake him up and get him to reconsider.

It said at the end that he was removed later that day in an ambulance - that he had been in the forest for a month living on nothing but liquids.

Reminds me of the elderly man in Australia(?) who lives across the street from a popular suicide spot and watches for jumpers so he can try to talk them out of it. I know I read about him in an FPP, but I can't find it at the moment. I greatly admire people who can face that much sadness and hang on to their sense of hope. I certainly couldn't do it.
posted by Dojie at 6:16 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


That was actually beautifully contemplative and refreshingly free of the "suicides are cowards" sanctimony that usually creeps in to such discussions here in the US. The gentleman expressed both personal sadness over the suicides, yet seemed to accept them as simply something certain people decide to do. It's just a part of life.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:35 AM on October 26, 2010


[A couple comments removed.]
posted by cortex at 7:10 AM on October 26, 2010


Aokigahara forest was also the subject of a particularly unnerving episode of Destination Truth.
posted by ErikaB at 7:51 AM on October 26, 2010


What I find interesting is that there is such a cult and ritual about the whole thing. I could understand one person having the idea of running a ribbon into the woods in case he changed his mind, but many people doing it? That's just bizarre.
posted by crunchland at 9:12 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dojie — you're thinking of Don Ritchie. I thought I remembered an FPP too, but can't find it.
posted by Lexica at 11:52 AM on October 26, 2010


Last spring This American Life had a piece (episode 407) on a four mile long bridge in China popular for suicides, and the man who patrols it trying to prevent the jumpers. It's very interesting and worth a listen.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 12:15 PM on October 26, 2010


Dojie — you're thinking of Don Ritchie. I thought I remembered an FPP too, but can't find it.

I posted a link to that story in a comment in another suicide thread this past June. Chose not to create an FPP.
posted by zarq at 12:37 PM on October 26, 2010


I've been to this forest and it's an unnervingly beautiful place. Cedar trees grow sideways out of old volcanic vents. It has an eerie silence.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:44 PM on October 26, 2010


It said at the end that he was removed later that day in an ambulance

Thanks, Dojie, I somehow missed that.
posted by orme at 4:44 PM on October 26, 2010


Last spring This American Life had a piece (episode 407) on a four mile long bridge in China popular for suicides, and the man who patrols it trying to prevent the jumpers. It's very interesting and worth a listen.

NPR's The Bridge
posted by mrgrimm at 9:03 AM on October 27, 2010


I thought that guy was really cool.
posted by innocuous_sockpuppet at 8:12 PM on October 27, 2010


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