Sea of Trees to Summit Part 1: Climbing Mt. Fuji through Aokigahara Forest (青木ヶ原樹海)
Judging by the lack of videos, blog posts, web pages, etc. documenting a similar route, it would seem that my video (1st of 2) of our trip:
....and this blog post are the first to attempt to document climbing Mt. Fuji with Aokigahara AKA 'The suicide forest' as the starting point. From having done this a few times now, I have learned that it is rather difficult for me to hike and take decent video/give running commentary at the same time. When we are hiking our primary focus is on reaching our intended destination, not on making the perfect video, so this blog entry will fill in some of the gaps in the video coverage of our hike.
I think that it is highly unlikely that we are the very first to have gone this way, as it is seems like an obvious variation on climbing Mt. Fuji for the adventurous sort. However, I also realize that most Japanese are too creeped out by the area's reputation to do what we did, and that Aokigahara has not come to international attention until recently thanks to Hollywood's shitty cash grab "The Forest" (saw it; inaccurate as is to be expected from Hollywood, and just unscary as a horror movie) and "The Sea of Trees" (haven't seen this one yet as of 2017/02/19) so this is perhaps the first time this particular route has been documented. So here we go...
We started our trip late Thursday night, arriving by my car at around 22:30 at the parking lot of the Fugaku Lava Cava (AKA the Wind Cave) free parking lot here, where we found that you can always find Engrish in Japan, even in the middle of the "Sea of forest"...
Translation: "Life is a precious gift from you parents
Calmly think one more time about your parents, your siblings, your children
You are not alone. Before (you act) please seek counseling."
-- Contact --
Fuji-Yoshida Police department, Suicide Prevention Association
Growing literally on top of a lava flow that covered the area in the year 864, with no real soil to grow down into the plant life that managed to eventually re-populate the area, the forest floor is a dangerous tangle of twisted tree roots, rocky outcroppings, and volcanic holes that range in size from mere ankle-breaker to full-on cave hundreds of meters long.
We hiked in a loop, aiming toward the wind cave. Coming from the back side, we inadvertently ended up 'gate-crashing' the place and thus avoiding paying the entrance fee... (o_O)
On the way out we fessed up and paid the entrance fee, although the lady seemed more than willing to let us slide.
Sunflowers on the main road (called "National Roads" in Japanese "Kokudō" 71:
A 'Yorishiro' (依り代) we found along 71 at the edge of the woods. I found this a bit creepy, actually, given the reputation of the area...
As we were walking along 71, an Oyaji (an "older guy" roughly translated) in a small truck pulled over, got out and came over to talk with us. The writing on the side of his truck showed that he was one of the 'suicide watch' volunteers that talks with people they find in the area to try and dissuade people from offing themselves. In a friendly manner he asked where we where headed (Us: "To the top of Mt. Fuji!" Him: "Sugoi!!"), asked if we had a map, and let us know how much further we had to go until we reached the trailhead, which was quite helpful, since we were starting to wonder if we had passed it. I didn't get pics or video, because my camera was stowed at the time, Japanese tend to be camera shy if it is not them taking the shot or not knowing where it will end up, and he only spent about 2-3 minutes with us before he was off to chat with others to try and stop the growth of more 'strange fruit' hanging from the trees of Aokigahara.
We found the trailhead, exactly where he said it would be...(Continued in Part 2)