Months after the Logan Paul scandal, a Japanese YouTube personality offers free hugs at Aokigahara in video that claims to show a life being saved.

Three months ago, American YouTuber Logan Paul filmed a video in Aokigahara, commonly referred to as Japan’s “suicide forest,” which showed the body of a man who had committed suicide. Now, Japanese YouTuber Saito Taicho has traveled to Aokigahara and also filmed a video, which is causing debate of its own in Japan.

The video opens with the following statement:

“To be honest, I was very conflicted about whether or not I should upload this video to YouTube. But I hope that it will help people who are dealing with pain and sadness every day to realize their life has value, and so I uploaded it.”

The video then shows Saito Taicho standing in front of the Fuketsu bus stop, where he greets the camera with a hearty “Hey, everybody, hi!” before taking his enthusiasm down several notches and saying “Um, actually today’s video isn’t anything so hyper.” He goes on to explain that while there is a cheery-looking restaurant right next to the bus stop, directly behind it is the start of a hiking trail that leads through Aokigahara, the forest near Mt. Fuji in which numerous suicidal individuals have chosen to end their lives.

In his hands, Saito Taicho holds a handwritten sign offering free hugs (though oddly the message is written only in English and Korean, not Japanese). His aim, he says, is to wait at the bus stop and, should he spot someone who looks to be mentally distraught and possibly suicidal walk into the forest, talk to them in an effort to help them reconsider making a tragic and irreversible choice. The YouTuber says his inspiration to do this comes from the signs that are placed along Aokigahara’s hiking trails with written messages reminding anyone considering suicide that no matter how deep their sadness, human life is something to be treasured.

“I’m not doing this as a joke,” Saito Taicho says as he stands at the bus stop. After about two and a half hours at the bus stop, at roughly the 2:42 point in the video, a young man gets off the bus. Carrying no backpack and not dressed in hiking gear, he slowly trudges towards the entrance to the hiking trail and heads into the forest.

Saito Taicho and his cameraman follow behind, at a distance, for 25 minutes, at which point the man stops at a secluded part of the trail. After some time staring off into the woods, he steps off the path and heads deeper into the forest, which is when Saito Taicho calls out to him.

“What did you come here to do?” the YouTuber asks, to which the man (who has a mosaic pattern placed over his face and later gave consent for the video to be uploaded) responds, “Well, I, umm…” He’s then silent for five minutes before the conversation resumes.

“When I saw you get off the bus, the look you had on your face, it…,” says Saito Taicho, “well, it might just be a misunderstanding on my part, but, this is a place where many people come to end their lives, to commit suicide…”

“Yeah…it is,” the man replies.

“Did you come here because you’ve been having a hard time, or a lot of troubles in your life lately?” Saito Taicho asks, and learns that the man has been fired from his job, and has gone into severe debt since. Trying to establish a common ground, Saito Taicho tells the man that he himself went through a very dark (though not suicidal) period, with a job in which he was physically and mentally abused, before finding happiness in his current lifestyle.

After a final plea for the man not to throw his life away, Saito Taicho makes the man an offer. “I’ll take you back to the bus stop, so for today, let’s head home.”

“OK,” replies the man after a long pause, and the two share a hug before retracing their steps back along the hiking path, eventually arriving at Fuketsu bus stop where the man gets on a bus and Saito Taicho waves as it pulls away.

The video has proven divisive, with some online commenters calling Saito Taicho to task for what they feel is an attempt to make a spectacle out of the issue of suicide in Aokigahara.

“All I see here is a YouTuber’s ploy to get attention.”
“Was there any point to putting this on YouTube?”
“I think the whole thing is staged.”

Others, though, saw an honest attempt, and success, in saving a person’s life, and found no fault in trying to spread the message, and the story, to a wide audience.

“That was deeply moving.”
“Incredibly kind. I respect him for doing that, and hope I can be that kind of person.”
“Even if went to Aokigahara for the purpose of making a video, there’s nothing wrong with what he did there.”
“People can debate all they want about whether or not he should have made the video, but the undeniable truth is that he stopped that man from killing himself.”
“What Logan Paul did was wrong, but I have no complaints about this.”

Saito Taicho’s video ends with another on-screen text message, this time saying:

“To those of you who watched this and are currently going through emotional pain in your life, thinking ‘I just can’t take any more.’ I know it’s hard right now, but some day, I believe you will be able to feel happiness, and meet many wonderful people.

Life may feel hard now, but little by little, at your own pace, in time you can overcome the things that are hurting you.”

Since posting his Aokigahara video, Saito Taicho has only uploaded one other video, in which he does sit-ups while surrounded by 120 cockroaches, so it doesn’t look like he’s making suicide-prevention a major part of his YouTube channel’s mission, which opens him up to criticism about dabbling in the topic in order to get attention. Those who’re taking his Aokigahara excursion at face value, though, appreciate his hands-on attempt to make a difference, no matter how slight.

If you or someone you know is in Japan and having suicidal thoughts, there are people here to help. Click here for more info.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/J Cast News via Hachima Kiko, Jin
Featured image: YouTube/斉藤タイチョー