Farewell to Tokyo and Aokigahara (青木が原) – The Suicide Forest
So, the day after tomorrow, we will be boarding the flight that will take us back to the U.K, for what will most likely be at least a year and probably longer.
On the plus side, we are moving back to London, where we have never lived before. Incredibly, our furnished flat for the first month is a five minute walk from St Paul’s Cathedral. I think it is likely that, in terms of entertainment, we will be just as fulfilled, if not more so, than in Tokyo. I would be lying, however, if I were to say that I didn’t have any regrets about leaving.
I am still not sure whether I have been in love with Tokyo, or in love with my situation. Spending my time working part-time, writing and learning Japanese, this has been the first time since I left university that I haven’t dreaded the trudge to work every morning. As work goes – I even enjoyed teaching a little.
I imagine the things that I will miss about Tokyo will be much easier to articulate in hindsight, when all the negative points of England, which nostalgia has worn away over time, will slap me in the face, indignant that I could ever forget them.
For now, I will hold my tongue and go into my new life open-minded. I’m looking forward to attending lots of concerts at the royal Albert Hall, Dissecting charity shops looking for good books and possibly even going to Wimbledon. Getting my food shopping delivered will also be a God send (how I hate shopping).
I was determined, before I left, to visit Aokigahara. The forest is infamous, both inside and outside of Japan, as a popular suicide destination for natives and the occasional foreigner. People who are bankrupt or have nothing to lose, make their way into the forest – where it is infinitely easy, given its mind-blowing size, to become lost – and either hang themselves or starve to death.
It was not just the lore that attracted me, but also the look of the forest, which is primeval and so peaceful that you can understand why someone would choose this place to end their lives. The other reason is equally obvious. In a country – and especially in Tokyo – where the population density is so high, apartments so crammed together and walls so thin, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were never truly alone, that you never have the luxury of privacy. The forest is full of caves and dense packs of trees fit for hiding, while the size means that it is impossible to properly monitor. It’s one of the few options they have. There are even many signs (not on the course we took) in both English and Japanese to dissuade the person intent on suicide.
We walked around it for an hour or two, meeting no-one on the way there, and only three of four couples on the way back. It truly was a peaceful and beautiful place. It’s a shame that it took us nearly three hours each way, but as I said, I was determined.
Here are a few photos of the forest preceded by a few of Daiba:
I suppose it is only fitting that my final post, featuring ‘farewell’, should also feature this forest.
Suicide in Japan, as a generalisation, is a cultural thing, and something that is more common than in the west. Maybe it is because of the lack of long-standing or deep Christian influence (It barely made a scratch in Japan), or perhaps it is because of their strong sense of honour and, more importantly shame, that they resort to it more freely, fearing a loss of dignity more than the end of their life. Anyone with even the vaguest knowledge of Japanese literature could tell you that it was in vogue with novelists not so long ago.
Whether or not I will continue a blog in London, I cannot say. I’m sure there are lots of interesting things to see and share, but I am not overly sure of what my situation will be, so I will leave the decision for later.
Will we return to Japan? Almost certainly yes. While I am worried about the gradual rise of nationalism in Japan, especially under their new prime minister, we would like to return in the near future, most likely to study.
TTFN and have a better one,