Aokigahara: The Forest Grown on Mt. Fuji’s Lava

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  • Aokigahara is a famous forest which spreads around the northern foot of the iconic Mount Fuji. This deep forest is known as the “sea of trees” or Aokigahara-jukai. The trees cover over 3,000 hectares of land and the forest is deep. It reaches from the west coast of Lake Sai to the eastern shores of Lake Motosu, touching Lake Shoji also. Almost no sounds penetrate the deep, deep forest and as so little wildlife exists here it can be eerily quiet.

    The history of Aokigahara

    The land that this forest grew on was once a bustling forest. In the year 864 Mount Fuji violently erupted, coating the land in burning lava and leaving desolation in its wake. The lava slowly cooled over hundreds of years, and life could not survive on this hotbed of lava. Some even say it took as long as 800 years before the lava was cool enough for life to be able to survive! Once the lava had cooled, slowly, life began to take hold again. Birds spread seeds onto the lava and small plants began to grow. As these plants grew and died a fine layer of soil developed on top of the lava.

    The first trees able to survive in this barren area were the conifers. You can see today how they fought to grow here. Their roots grasp onto the rocky floor to support their great heights. Aokigahara is still mainly a coniferous forest, however, some broad-leafed deciduous trees have started to grow now that more soil is available. In this history of forests Aokigahara is a very young forest and is continuing to develop. In a couple of hundred years, the deciduous trees will outnumber the conifers, and the feel or the forest will change.

    Visiting Aokigahara

    The forest here is unlike any you will see elsewhere. The hard, marble floor of lava and the creeping roots give Aokigahara a ghostly feel. In older times, it was thought the forest was haunted by goblins and spirit creatures. Today you can visit several different attractions within the forest, as well as enjoy the stunning trees themselves. When the lava cooled several cave structures were formed. You can go and visit the Fugaku lava cave, the Narusawa lava cave, the Ryuuguu lava cave or Koumori-ana. The first two caves have a very low temperature so you can see ice forming within them. Ryuuguu contains an enshrined god of water while Koumori-ana is home to bats. There is a convenient bus route which travels around the edge of Aokigahara running from Kawaguchiko station. There are trails through the forest, however, be careful with navigation as it is easy to get lost here!

    Aokigahara “sea of trees” walking course

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