A struggle through Aokigahara Jukai (the Sea of Trees)

Situated as it is on the northwestern slope of Fuji-san, and next to a couple of the mountain’s famed five lakes, Aokigahara Jukai (the Sea of Trees) would be incredibly well known anyway, as its vast and volcanic rock strewn landscape make it a very unique place indeed.

However, due to the area being well documented as a place where a disturbingly large number of people go to commit suicide — 78 and 100 in 2002 and 2003 respectively — it is infamy rather than its deserved fame that the the Sea of Trees is now undoubtedly saddled with.

So it’s perhaps not surprising then that when visiting the forest, these preconceptions are incredibly difficult to shake off, with even standard road signs.

Aokigahara Jukai (Sea of Trees)

And especially decaying wooden ones, becoming suddenly symbolic — strangely sinister even.

Aokigahara Jukai (Sea of Trees)

Yet when entering the area on one of the many well maintained tracks, it quickly becomes apparent that such stories aside, it is a stunningly beautiful place. Yes it’s very quiet due to a noticeable lack of birds and the like, but the colours and unusual silence create a quite incredible atmosphere. A sense, and indeed scenery, that these photos sadly do very little to recreate.

Aokigahara Jukai (Sea of Trees)

Opting to leave the trail, however, and head off into the trees and volcanic debris is without doubt a very different experience. The beauty is still there, arguably even more so, but loose rocks and damp rotting vegetation make for very difficult progress indeed. Plus all the directional changes needed to try and plot a way through mean that it’s very easy to quickly lose almost all sense of direction.

Aokigahara Jukai (Sea of Trees)

But knowing how dense the forest can be, and having heard rumours about compasses not working in there, I’d took the precaution of setting up a tracking app on my phone. Unfortunately, part way in it appeared to have stopped working, due to what I mistakenly put down to a lack of reception, leaving us to plough on regardless in the direction we thought, and increasingly hoped, was the right one.

A decision that was perfectly fine, until we came across this discarded jacket.

Aokigahara Jukai (Sea of Trees)

Then sometime later a whisky bottle.

Aokigahara Jukai (Sea of Trees)

And finally a human bone.

Aokigahara Jukai (Sea of Trees)

All of which, with the added worries of having almost no water left, spiders galore, and missteps sometimes causing us to sink down all the way to our knees, made the forest seem a very different place indeed.

Aokigahara Jukai (Sea of Trees)

One where beauty didn’t seem to really figure anymore. Quite the opposite in fact. As what may well have been something to marvel at only a little while before, now became something to maybe even move away from.

Aokigahara Jukai (Sea of Trees)

Thankfully though, things didn’t feel unpleasant for too long, as it turned out the aforementioned app was actually tracking us after all. And although a lack of water was far from ideal, we at last knew where we were going, along with the reassuring knowledge that despite the terrain, the trail we came in on really wasn’t that far away at all.

Which, all in all, made for an interesting, if a little unsettling and somber at times, few hours. And, whilst it didn’t exactly change my image of the forest in some ways, it did allow me to see it in an added new light — namely one of beauty and almost breathtaking serenity.

Finally, for anyone interested, the map of where we wandered is here:

Aokigahara Jukai at EveryTrail

Japanese workers (having a relaxing rest) from working #32

Unlike some things in Japan, the nation’s parcel delivery services are unbelievably efficient rather than efficiently bureaucratic, meaning desired delivery times are strictly adhered to, and a quick and easy call will have a re-delivery round in no time.

But such conscientiousness must come at a cost, and for those doing the rounds of doorsteps, dealing with distances and dictated drop-offs must be dizzying. And, along with the likely long hours and rigid rules and regulations, the chance for a respite must be rare. So, when the opportunity for a bit of peace and quiet does present itself, a clandestine nap in an air-conditioned cab must be not only incredibly nice, but no doubt equally necessary.

Japanese driver sleeping

Tokyo tilt-shift #3

For me at least, faffing about with the iPhone’s TiltShift Generator app never fails to fascinate, and although the results can be more than a little mixed, the better ones undoubtedly offer a different take on a topic — such as, for example, the fairly recently featured Kyotei boat racing stadium, photos of which, when fiddled about with for a few minutes, look really rather fetching.

Tokyo tilt-shift

Tokyo tilt-shift

Tokyo tilt-shift

Other contests can take on a slightly different feel too. Like the daily effort to beat other drivers.

Tokyo tilt-shift

Or simply others’ drives.

Tokyo tilt-shift

Plus there is also the sad sight of homeless ‘homes’ by the river.

Tokyo tilt-shift

And finally, the considerably more calming find of fishermen perched around a pond.

Tokyo tilt-shift

As always, some of these pictures have been previously posted at Tokyotimes’s Posterous, where all my iPhone photos, whether tilt-shift or otherwise, are posted.

Tokyo Times return

After gallivanting around Great Britain for five weeks — which left Tokyo Times noticeably only plodding along with nowhere near the normal amount of new material — I’m now back in Japan, so, fingers crossed and photo opportunities permitting, things should very quickly return to normal.

Particularly so in fact should the sun continue to shine, and, perhaps more importantly, I can somehow prise my bicycle out of its prison.

Tokyo bicycle

A definite festival don’t

There are a tremendous amount of things that one can, or indeed should, take to a Japanese festival, such as a sense of fun, a fair bit of cash for some booze, and a camera in some form or other to fire off a few photos.

But a dog, is definitely, not a decent idea.

Japanese festival dog