Visiting Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest in Fujinomiya-shi, Yamanashi, was a fantastic experience I never planned as a Tokyo photographer. The intentions my wife and I had were to visit Lake Kawaguchi. Of course, a day trip to see only one place isn’t nearly enough for our hunger to discover and travel through Japan.
After researching the Fuji Five Lakes, the decision was easy: we started an early drive towards the Kawaguchi Lake to enjoy the views of the majestic Japanese volcano, Fuji. The day was young, and I never imagined that Aokigaha Jukai was waiting for me.
Table of contents:
- Fuji Five Lakes, first stop to Kawaguchi Lake, with Mt. Fuji in mind
- Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba, Wind and Ice Caves nearby Aokigahara Forest? Sure!
- What is Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest?
- How to travel to Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest, one day trip from Tokyo?
Fuji Five Lakes, first stop to Kawaguchi Lake, with Mt. Fuji in mind.
If you wonder what Fuji five Lakes is known as in Japan, well, that is an easy answer. The region at the base of Mount Fuji, known as Fuji Five Lakes, is a list of exactly that, five lakes around the mountain, with more or less direct view to the volcano, depending on what side of the lake you are. For a while now, my bucket list included these lakes, primarily because of Mt. Fuji’s incredible views, and I never imagined visiting Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest. See below the entire list, not necessarily in a specific order:
You can find Lake Yamanaka Located in the village of Yamanakako in Yamanashi Prefecture near Mount Fuji. It is the largest of the Fuji Five Lakes and the third highest lake in The Land of the Rising Sun. Yamanaka is a lake I have yet to visit, but I promise to see it eventually.
To be precise, the correct spelling is Shōji. From the same prefecture as the others, this time in the Fujikawaguchiko Town. Lake Shoji is the smallest from the Fuji Five Lakes list.
Lake Motosu, 本栖湖, is the westernmost lake in the list of Fuji Five Lakes, in the Yamanashi Prefecture. Also, in plan to visit it.
Well, Lake Kawaguchi has been on my list of go-to places ever since I moved to the Nihon Land. As a portrait photographer located in Tokyo, I have discovered some fantastic portraits taken on the shores of this lake with Fooj in the background that made me crave to see the area and, at some point, to have scheduled a photoshoot here. The place is trendy among prewedding photographers, particularly for proposal shoots, primarily because of the majestic appearance of Fuji Mt. in the background. Please don’t get fooled: the clouds can keep it covered the entire day and only for brief moments unveil its impressive appearance.
Lake’s Kawaguchi serene place is located between Fijikawaguchiko and Minobu towns, in the southern part of the Yamanashi Prefecture. Apart from incredible views for family photoshoots, the area provides a range of aquatic sports and camping sites right on the shores of the lake. Especially in the spring, Oishi Park is an oasis of flower beds, perfect for incredible photographs. I definitely plan to go back again next spring.
After spending a couple of hours waiting for the clouds to unveil Fuji Mt., my wife and I had a great lunch from Lake Bake Cafe. Right at the end of the lunch, we got to enjoy the incredible view you can see below:
Because we wanted to make the most out of the trip, after the Fooj decided to hide again under thick clouds, we decided to keep it going. With the traditional Japanese village Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato in mind, we went past Lake Saiko. Another step is getting us closer to the Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest. Yaay!
On our way, Lake Saiko showed beautiful colors of its waters and windy roads. Unfortunately, we made no stops, but I have driven slow so I could enjoy the scenery. As you may noticed, the Saiko Lake is very near to the Kawaguchi Lake. Fuji may be seen, but not as prominently as from Kawaguchi.
Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba, Wind and Ice Caves nearby Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest? Sure!
The main idea was to go and visit Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato traditional Japanese village. On the way to the village, my wife and I have decided to explore a little more and see the caves nearby. And that’s how I got to discover the most fantastic place: Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest. More about that in a little.
Probably one of the best places to rent out a kimono or yukata is this little gem of Japanese tradition intertwined with a serene calm vibe. The Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba is a reconstructed village meant to show visitors Japanese traditions and handcrafted art.
Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba Village
Otherwise known as the Healing Village, Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba is a village located in Nenba district, near Lake Saiko’s shores. The entire village is filled up with thatched roof houses, each specialized for different handcrafted Japanese arts.
The village is a former farming village repurposed into a cultural place showing of Japanese traditional culture. Inside the rural village is a unique vibe, sustained by the twenty houses specialized in pottery, incense, weaving, and more.
I recommend this place to anyone who visits Japan to stay there for a while. Letting sink in the astonishing views and Japanese tradition is something profoundly inspiring. While there, I sat on a bench and breathed in the fresh air, without thinking of anything. It is an excellent place to be and enjoy. Due to COVID-19, there were no crowds either, so I could peacefully BE.
After enjoying a good time here, I was one step closer to the famous forest without even knowing.
Narusawa Ice Cave
Something I thought interesting to see was the Narusawa Ice Cave. At the entrance, I bought a combined ticket, including the Fugaku wind cave too, which probably was the best-spent money ever: without doing so, I couldn’t discover the fantastic Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest. That was interesting, because I remember passing by it, but somehow I kept going to the Ice Cave, which was very near. Apart from people getting dressed up and asked for protection helmets, nothing prepares you for the frog walk inside the cave, although it is announced at the entrance, in several languages.
Being an Ice Cave, one would expect cold; well, it wasn’t at the beginning of October 2020; I came out sweaty. Unless one needs a jacket outdoors, no need to wear one inside. Getting to the entrance was a short walk. Inside the cave, there wasn’t much ice at this time, but, as you might expect, it wasn’t as hot as outside. Visiting this cave has brought me closer to Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest, but I didn’t quite realize it then.
Fugaku Wind Cave
After only a couple of minutes drive, I reached Fugaku Wind Cave. The little road to the entrance to Fugaku Wind Cave… took a while because not knowingly, I was astounded by the trees that seemed to be put there like in a fantasy movie. I took lots of photos on my way to the cave using the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f / 1.8G ED, a lens that lately I started to use more and more, although we have a love and hate relationship that is a story for another day. At this point, I had no idea that I was walking through the famous Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest.
Reaching Fugaku Wind Cave kept my mind spinning to the views I just witnessed in the forest. Getting in the cave, I could hear people saying it might be freezing inside, but I think it was all right, although I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Inside the cave, I did expect it to be windy, like real windy. To my surprise, it wasn’t at all, and I can’t resemble its name in the feelings I had while inside.
The inside of the cave is well organized (like all places in Japan), and it seems that the cave was used back in the day to store various seeds due to its temperatures and natural air circulation.
While I am impressed with all things I see in Japan, that forest is just love at first sight. Upon exiting the cave, I switched to another of my lenses, the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f / 1.8G, my favorite lens for portraits, but here I used it to photograph details of the forest. Because I was so caught up with it, I haven’t checked the map on my iPhone to see what forest is that, so I kept taking photos and then went straight home.
Arriving at home, I had only one thought: to download the photos I took in the forest on my iMac and review them, because I was blown away and my mind kept screaming: portrait shoot there, portrait shoot there! Now, this was the trigger point. There, where is it? Heading to Google Maps, was a matter of seconds to realize that the forest indeed is Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest!
I know, I know! I was ignorant for not researching exactly where I went in the first place, but that’s kind of how my wife and I travel. We find a few interest points on the map, and if that sounds compelling enough, there we go without much thought; we never planned to see the marvelous Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest.
Realizing that both caves are situated in Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest was something I kept saying about: I’m a fortunate person! I’m not sure why this place is favored for suicides because it is an awe-inspiring place. At least it is for me as a creative person.
What is Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest?
Wikipedia has an extensive article about this forest, see below the first paragraph:
Aokigahara (青木ヶ原), also known as the Sea of Trees (樹海, Jukai), is a forest on the northwestern flank of Japan’s Mount Fuji, thriving on 30 square kilometers (12 sq mi) of hardened lava laid down by the last major eruption of Mount Fuji in 864 CE. The western edge of Aokigahara, where there are several caves that fill with ice in winter, is a popular destination for tourists and school trips. Parts of Aokigahara are very dense, and the porous lava absorbs sound, helping to provide visitors with a sense of solitude.
The forest has a historical reputation as a home to yūrei: ghosts of the dead in Japanese mythology. In recent years, Aokigahara has become known as “the Suicide Forest,” one of the world’s most-used suicide sites; signs at the head of some trails urge suicidal visitors to think of their families and contact a suicide prevention association.Source of the description above is Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aokigahara
Now that we cleared what Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest is let me continue writing down my impressions. As you can see in the photo above, the forest is magical. I am already planning to go back for a portrait shoot.
For the first time, I could see such a vast area with hardened lava and a beautiful place. Because it was an overcast day, the light in Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest was dreamy, allowing me to take these amazing photographs you can see below. No wonder why I fell in love with this place.
The moss inside Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest gives it a serene and dreamy atmosphere making for amazing detail photographs. I literally couldn’t stop taking photos. Everywhere I turned my eyes to, I could see an image.
Look at those roots! Nature has a fantastic way of creating stunning beauty out of basically nothing. If I think that the entire Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest has grown over volcanic lava, a tough rock, it blows my mind how it develops over time. I have seen quite a few places in my life, but this one thicks for the most impressive one.
How to travel to Kawaguchi Lake and Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest?
Traveling to Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest for me was relatively easy because I have a car, and that makes things easy. Hop on the highway, and in two hours, I reached the Yamanashi area. If you book a portrait session there, I’ll gladly drive you around and be your local guide. But, let’s get on point, because if you are reading my article, odds will be you are a tourist. Or you will be a tourist in Japan.
For those traveling from Tokyo to Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest in Yamanashi, I recommend one of the many one day round trips organized by travel agencies, which may be the cheapest and most convenient option without continually having to worry about bus departure times. Another plus for one day tours is, there will be included stops to the major tourist attractions, so there is that.
At the time of the article, Google Maps, my favorite travel app in Japan, doesn’t show any routes available for public transportation. It might happen for various reasons, but I think it is due to many routes being canceled during the pandemic and the few travelers. After doing some online research for how to travel by public transportation to Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest, I have found a possible route here; see the map below:
Would you like to visit the places I have described in this article? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below. I’d love to hear from you. If you are looking for a private portrait photographer to take you places and double as your personal guide, press the contact button now and let’s bring to life your amazing one day trip to Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest.
Lake Kawaguchi gallery
Saiko Iyashi-no-Sato Nenba Village gallery
Narusawa Ice Cave gallery
Fugaku Wind Cave gallery
Aokigahara Jukai Suicide Forest gallery