Autumn always feels so short. Never enough time to get more hikes in to see the autumn leaves.
Was lucky and scored a perfect autumn day – clear skies, dry and views of Mount Fuji.
Got to finally see the Aokigahara woodlands, also known as the Sea of Trees (Jukai), so called, because when viewed from the sky, it looks like a sea of trees. Also, incidentally known as the suicide forest. Unfortunately, it is the site where many Japanese people go and never come back. The government has tried to prevent as many suicides as possible from happening there. And upon arriving there, there were signs and surveillance cameras warning those who enter to reconsider their options. The woodlands were formed by the trees that grew on the lava flow from volcanic eruptions.
Despite it’s grim history, the woodlands actually features a beautiful easy walking trail to some great lookout points.
The day requires an early start as it takes about 3 hours from Tokyo to get to Kawaguchiko station.
Riding the Fuji kyuko train:
Got to see Mount Fuji along the train trip.
From Kawaguchiko station, you’ll need to take a 45min bus trip over towards Lake Saiko – which is a crazy name for a lake, am I right? (you get it don’t you?).
At the starting point from the Fuketsu lava caves, there’s a surveillance camera as you enter the woodlands. They basically keep an eye out for suspicious entering the trail (ie someone wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase).
You’ll also come across this sign, very early into the trail:
Your life is a precious gift from your parents. Please think of about your parents, sibings and children. You are not alone. Talk to someone.
And the phone number of the suicide prevention team of the local Fuji district police dept. phone name is given.
The woodlands is a sea of twisted trees and roots around the base of the Mount Fuji area and five lakes district. Surprisingly very green.
There is a clearly marked trail which you should stick to. Wandering off the path is tantamount to getting lost. Those who go to end their life there do so by getting lost in the forest and then committing suicide by hanging.
Along the route, is an ice cave which is pretty lame. And yes, entry is going to cost you.
The highlight of the trail was going out to Sankodai lookout point (which means View of 3 Lakes). A view of Lake Saiko, Lake Motoso and LakeShojiko and also Mount Fuji. Simply stunning.
And the autumn leaves were in their prime.
A most interesting looking plant specimen:
The plains below:
There’s also a bat cave:
Although me thinks they don’t actually have any bats there. They just tell you that “they’re sleeping”. “Sleeping”, my left foot. They are making a racket, charging 300yen entry for bats that aren’t even there.
Inside the bat cave:
Be warned, the tunnels are insanely low. Not for the old folks or those with bad backs and knees.
A really awesome hike. Well, not so much a hike as a nice trail walk with a few hills. Various lookout points with stunning views and various caves along the way. Highly recommend going in Autumn.
Doable as a day trip, provided you make an early start and aim to get to Kawaguchiko station at about 9am. And buses only run about one an hour from the station to Lake Saiko area. Quite a fascinating area. I will admit I was super curious about visiting this forest. Had heard it was a little bit scary given its reputation. Definitely worth visiting. There are plenty of attractions at Lake Kawaguchi. Here’s a post where I was there 3 years ago.