I have done a few posts recently about manga, starting with one about my favourite manga Kurosagi Shitai Takuhaibin. As a manga that deals with mysterious deaths, it should be no surprise that Aokigahara features in some of the stories. Indeed, the image below is the very first image to appear in the first volume of Kurosagi.
Whilst Mount Fuji is probably recognisable to most, I can assure you that the road and building that feature in the picture really do look like that too. This car park and Aokigahara also feature in my novel Tokyo 20/20 Vision.
So why do the Kurosagi team become such regular visitors to Aokigahara? In part I suspect that due to the relatively low murder rate in Japan, this will lead to stories that – at least initially – appear to be suicides. In terms of death in Japan, there is arguably no other single location which is more associated with death. Although the Kurosagi team do also make one visit to the Chūō Line, another popular suicide location, Aokigahara clearly offers great opportunities for variable storylines as witnesses to the death are likely to be less in Aokigahara
This was one reason why I also chose the location for Tokyo 20/20 Vision – but also that was an opportunity to discuss other aspects of Aokigahara – that is, it is a very beautiful national park – while also touching upon issues of poor mental health support in Japan (which is also discussed in my novel FOUR). And I have previously discussed how some of this is blurring the boundaries between my research and academic writing (that post also discusses how I nearly didn’t include Aokigahara in Tokyo 20/20 Vision).
While some of the above may answer why Kurosagi concentrates on this location, it does not answer why Aokigahara has become the place where so many apparently go to commit suicide. This is something that I discuss more in my book Japan: The Basics. But as I start to plan an update to that book, I wonder whether it’s appropriate to contain discussion on Aokigahara in there. Does doing so pander to a popular image of Japan or does the book help, as I hope it does (and I also try to do this in Tokyo 20/20 Vision), to alter the image of Aokigahara amongst non-Japanese, while also flagging up concerns about mental health support in Japan?