It is the land of the rising sun. It is a terrain of hot water springs. It is blessed with colourful foliage in autumn and cherry blossoms in spring. Highly susceptible to earthquakes, yet, Japan is one of nature’s most admired beauties. A country that has, over time, come to be every tourist’s delight, has struggled with calamities throughout its existence. Whether it is Japan’s notorious volcano on Mount Fuji that killed thousands up until the 18th century, or the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that destroyed nearly the entire land, Japan has mastered the art of coexisting with and winning over catastrophe. The world might have presumed the country would remain buried under the rubble. Instead, it rose like a phoenix from the ashes. Literally.
Neither natural nor man-made disasters have deterred Japan’s grit and determination. Today, it is a first-world nation with a high literacy rate and a stable economy. The Japanese society owes its prosperity to its people’s willpower. Sadly, this willpower is put to test time and again. Mount Fuji may no longer flame the country up, but the Aokigahara Forest at its base continues to brew a sad practice. It has been a sought-after destination for committing suicide, earning the name ‘Suicide Forest’. Some parts of the woods barely get any sunlight or breeze. The stillness of this forest is more eerie than peaceful.
Just like the dense nature of this forest, the darkness of the Japanese suicidal tendency runs deep. A study published in Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal states, “Suicide is a dark thread that weaves through centuries of Japanese history, as an integral part of culture and society, manifesting itself in various forms over the years.” For instance, feudal Japan believed in atoning through sacrifices. The Samurai warriors believed that suicide was a noble way to die, that the human soul resided in the stomach and the noblest way to die was to slit the stomach open and set the soul free. Instead of being captured, a defeated Samurai would perform seppuku, a ritual of self-disembowelment. It was his noble path to atonement.
What might be seen as corporal sacrifice for redemption is really just suicide resulting from fear of dealing with life’s problems.