“If anyone tells you they’re not afraid of the dark,” writes Jeremy Bates in “Suicide Forest,” “that’s because they have never spent a night in Aokigahara Jukai. It doesn’t matter how brave you think you are, there is something so deranged and wrong about this forest that it worms its way into the deepest closets of your mind and awakens your most primitive fears.”

Suicide Forest, by Jeremy Bates.
427 pages

In the hands of a competent horror writer, the “Sea of Trees” in the foothills of Mount Fuji is a scary place indeed. And despite a positive review on the Japan National Tourism Organization’s website, this reviewer feels no compunction to visit. It is, after all, one of Japan’s most popular suicide venues since being featured in Seicho Matsumoto’s 1958 serialized novel, “Black Sea of Trees.”

Told in the first person by American Ethan Childs, “Suicide Forest’s” dramatis personae include Childs’ girlfriend Mel, one other American, an Israeli couple, an English teacher from New Zealand and a Japanese university student named Tomo who speaks comically “trendy” English.

Their excursion into this labyrinth gradually descends into mishap, accident, sickness and an inexplicable suicide. They try to call for help but their phones run out of juice and, before they can flee, they realize something really is out there.

Bates is clearly a newbie to Japan and some remarks don’t ring true. His approach is formulaic, to a point, but readers who persist will find some creatively creepy touches and get the frights they crave.

Read more reviews like this at japantimes.co.jp/culture/books.

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