TRAVEL (JAPAN): Sea Of Trees (Aokigahara)

Published on theMusic.com.au 30.06.14

LOST AT SEA

Sea Of Trees 1

If you want to stumble into your own version of The Blair Witch Project, you needn’t look any further than Japan’s Aokigahara. Daniel Cribb gets swallowed by the Sea Of Trees and discovers something unsettling.

At the northwest base of Mount Fuji, hidden away from the tourist attractions that make the covers of travel brochures, lies a dense forest with an unparalleled darkness. Aokigahara, better known as the Sea Of Trees, is associated with demons in Japanese mythology. The thing that really makes the area unnerving is such associations make it a popular place for suicides, with over 100 each year. In fact, they no longer release exact figures.

Fittingly, a thick layer of cloud cover smothers the sun as our bus pulls up at the forest. We’re the only ones to get off and it takes a while to find an appropriate entrance. We pass the information centre and a tour group and begin our way down the main trail. It’s actually quite a beautiful place, and walking along the main, family-friendly trail, we find it hard to believe the thick forest surrounding us is as freaky as reported. We get two kilometres in and decide to venture into unmarked territory – despite passing a slew of signs urging visitors otherwise. We tie twine to a tree, and then we begin to push our way into the unknown.

Sea Of Trees 2

Due to the density and height of the trees and lack of wildlife, it’s dead silent as we start to push through increasingly thick foliage. Even the wind fails to find its way through, leaving everything feeling a little too still. Dead trees lie on their side, with their rotting roots lending themselves as stepping-stones and with a large stick we carve a path through cobwebs and occasionally test the strength of the roots. We lose phone reception, and then, with the sun hidden behind trees, our sense of direction. The only thing keeping us from becoming hopelessly lost is the twine trail behind us, which would probably cause concern to anyone on the main path. At this point, it feels a little too much like The Blair Witch Project, but it’s an eerie excitement that makes the three-hour commute from Tokyo worthwhile.

Sea Of Trees 3

There are no signs that anyone has passed through in years, but the chance of potentially finding something keeps us going – what we think or hope we’ll find, we have no idea. We’re not sure we even really want to find anything. You hear stories of people stumbling across umbrellas, jackets, various other items and occasionally human remains deep in the forest, but the further in we venture and the more we realise how huge the area is, we realise our chances of discovering something is unlikely.

The sun starts to set and our supply of twine is running low, so we begin preparing to turn around and follow our trail back to the main path – there’s no way you want to find yourself lost in Aokigahara come nightfall. No sooner do we decide to turn around do we spot something dangling off a branch in the distance. We get close enough to figure out that dangling of the branch is a leather belt that which, judging by how much it has decayed, has been there for at least a year. We climb through a number of fallen trees and thick plantation and that’s when we spot something on the ground below the belt. Under a thick layer of leaves and debris sits clothing. Our stomachs sink. From within one of the pant legs, a bone sticks out, we see more and more. There’s no way to accurately describe the feeling, and everything almost becomes surreal – like something out of a movie. We’re shocked, but at the same time, I don’t know what else we expected to find. We follow our twine trail back to the path and head towards the information centre, passing various tourist groups along the way.

Sea Of Trees 4

Through a series of hand gestures and photos we explain to the staff what we had just discovered, to which they seem genuinely shocked and immediately begin making phone calls. Two maintenance workers come in, get the lowdown, go to their van and, with straight faces – like it’s just another day at work – wander into the forest.

Advertisements

INTERVIEW: Jason Dohring (Veronica Mars)

Published in The Music (WA, NSW, VIC) | 02.07.14 | Issue # 45

VERONICA MARS

There may be hope for the future of Veronica Mars, as star Jason Dohring reveals details of a confirmed spin-off and the possibility of the show’s return to Daniel Cribb.

It’s been seven years since we saw Jason Dohring riding waves on Neptune Beach as Logan Echolls on Season Three ofVeronica Mars. When the show was cancelled in 2007, fans were left in limbo, struggling to deal with withdrawals, until creator Rob Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign last year that made crowdfunding history. Seven years later fans still had a burning passion for the show, raising $5,702,153, and thrusting the characters of the cult hit back into the spotlight. While they look a little older, have families and other projects on the go, some things haven’t changed. “I think when I go over there I’m going to try hit the reef, you know what I mean,” Dohring says on his Oz Comic-Con Melbourne appearance. “I like the water a lot, dude. I think there’s something peaceful and calming about it. I just got back from Northern California – doing water sports, and skiing and weight boarding, and all that sort of stuff, and I’ve got a couple of kids now, so I’m kind of introducing them to all that as well.”

A swarm of Marshmallows (yep, that’s the name given to Veronica Mars fans) will no doubt venture to Oz Comic-Con to chat about the film, and other works Dohring has been involved with in recent years, including reoccurring roles onRinger and Moonlight. For Dohring, it’s the perfect opportunity to give something back. “We didn’t even know how many fans we had, or whether they were willing to put up their own money. I snuck into a theatre, just to see what people thought of it and you know, the credits went dark after everything and somebody shouted out, ‘We did it!’, and everybody started cheering, and I was like, ‘Dude, that is so cool. What a unique experience’… One person saw me and then it was just a disaster; I was there for an hour and a half just taking pictures,” he laughs. Fans were teased with a Season Four trailer in 2007 that never eventuated to anything, and while many had lost hope for a revival, it seems that Thomas may have always known something else would arise. Perhaps the loose ends in Season Three were a means to build to something bigger years down the track. “I think with a few episodes to go, the network went up to Rob and said, ‘We’re not really sure if you’ll be coming back, so if you want to maybe wrap things up you should maybe do that,’ and he did the exact opposite in true Rob fashion and just left everything totally open, which turned out to be one of the biggest selling points in getting more of this story told.” If you thought the Veronica Mars film signalled everything was over, think again. While it may not be as prevalent in the film, Thomas planted loose ends to potentially revisit in the future. “He left a couple of loose ends; he didn’t tie it all up like real nice… You know, [the characters] talk about ‘This is just the tip of the iceberg’, in regards to how corrupt the police force is, and I think after that sheriff went down, then maybe it opens the door for Keith [Mars] to take the position and possibly uncover corruption.

“With Veronica now back to private-eyeing and having Tina [Majorino] there to explore things for her, I think sort of just the corruption level and finding out what that’s all about – it just leads to more stories.” If that wasn’t enough, it’s been confirmed that Ryan Hansen – who plays Dick Casablancas on the show – has been given his own spin-off, Play It Again, Dick. The spin-off will feature Hansen playing himself trying to get the character of Casablancas his own show. Although not much else has been announced yet, Dohring reveals he and Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) have been approached to appear and are keen. “I love what Ryan does, and I love the writing that Rob writes for him. I think it’s such a great success story and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. He had one word in the pilot or the second episode and by the end of Season Two he was a regular.  “I hope I get to be a part of it and I love Ryan and love working with him as well, he’s just such a super guy… They contacted me several weeks ago and we’ll just see what happens. I know that Rob’s working on another pilot for another show that got picked up, iZombie, and we’ll just have to see how it plays out. I know he’s quite busy, and Kristen is having another kid, so I don’t know how it’s all going to play. I think we’re all just waiting to get done with the projects we’re on.”