Dark Tourist season 1, episode 2 recap: ‘Japan’


In episode 2 of Netflix series Dark Tourist, David Farrier visits Japan for nuclear tourism, and also Jukai Forest, the world’s most famous suicide spot.

The second episode of Dark Tourist certainly brings viewers on a journey to some of the most infamous but dark locations in Japan.

Fukishima Nuclear Tourism

In 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami created a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. It’s estimated that the tsunami took 20,000 lives (though some estimates are more conservative, at 15,000).

Still, it’s not 2011 anymore, and people are trying to move on with their lives. In fact, journalist and “dark tourist” David Farrier is participating in some nuclear tourism. He’s not alone, either, as he’s on a bus with a surprising amount of people, traveling through what may very well be contaminated areas. To assure the group’s confidence, their tour guide — a nice enough man named Yo — seems not at all concerned about nuclear energy levels. He jokes that he’s not growing extra horns or extra fingers.

Nevertheless, the tour rather quickly takes a dark and ominous tone. They visit a town that’s completely abandoned, and it looks like something out of an apocalyptic film. Armed with their Geiger counters, the tour is alarmed that the radiation is higher than it should be. A tourist named Anya notes that her Geiger meter’s at 0.75. She says that’s higher than Pripyat, around the infamous Chernobyl disaster, where no one’s allowed to go. Farrier notes, “Suddenly, nuclear tourism doesn’t seem like such a great idea.”

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Yo warns the people about breathing in radioactive dust, and Farrier finds humor in them officially calling troubled areas, “difficult to return to zones.” At one point, their tour gets in trouble, and Farrier almost gets on Yo’s bad side after branching off and sneaking a peek at a “forbidden zone.”
He says, “This tour is more stressful than I thought it would be.” It’s not all bad, though. The group stops at a restaurant called Grandma’s, which is intended to lure tourists back to the area.
Farrier tell us, “The food may be radioactive but it’s delicious.” When you have an endorsement from Dark Tourist, you’re probably doing something right…or not.

Geiger Fears

When Yo says a tsunami stripped the whole town, it’s not just talk. We get the visuals loud and clear, which makes Dark Tourist a worthwhile journalistic enterprise in its own right. Regarding some laughter from those in the group, Farrier explains: “You laugh to cover up your nerves sometimes.” Then, while we get to see where a bunch of radioactive soil’s been stored, David notes how “Town after town is wrecked, radioactive, abandoned.” Accordingly, Geiger counters start going off like crazy. Yo had said anything over a 0.2 is unsafe. However, their levels keep rising well beyond that. First, it goes up to 2.8, then another reading is 7.19. Then one is at 9.71 — 50 times the safe threshold. The group votes on ending the tour, and one hopes they heard the old adage: “You get what you paid for.”

A Robot Hotel and a Suicide Forest

Because Japan can be a quirky place, we see that David’s hotel is automated — that is, run by robots. This includes a velociraptor front desk clerk with a voice very similar to comedian Dane Cook.  As a special feature, David’s robot sings the classic”Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” lullaby for him at night, and he directs it to shut up.

Presumably the next morning, David Farrier makes it to Jukai Forest, which is famous as a suicide forest. Over 100 bodies are found there a year, and there have been horror movies made about the place. As David tours it, it becomes no mystery why. It’s definitely haunting if nothing else.
When asked about the suicides, David’s familiar tour guide, Yo, blames them on obligation and honor.

Its reputation as a suicide hotspot has been officially acknowledged, too. A sign outside the forest urges people to think about their parents and their children, and otherwise discourages suicide. Some people think suicides are actually inspired by spirits in the forest. In fact, Farrier is surprised — maybe even impressed — that Yo seems more worried about forest spirits (often called yūrei) than any nuclear radiation around Fukushima. So, obviously, there’s power to the beliefs.

The signs of suicide are in the forest, too. Jake, a restaurant owner, talks about a skeleton he found, and Farrier and Yo find remains of a makeshift noose (and for those who assume Farrier faked it or something, know that actual bodies really are found in the forest quite regularly).

As a twist, one woman named Noriko claims she saw a ghost who warned her not to take her life. In other words, not all spirits in the forest lure people to death. Still, David, Noriko and Yo drink salt to ward off spirits. Is that enough? Possibly not, because yūrei are supposedly attacking Noriko on this very tour. In any case, David reminds us that there’s nothing romantic about suicide and that the forest is indeed strange and eerie.

Next. Dark Tourist season 1, episode 3 recap. dark

One Last Stop: Hashima Island (AKA Battleship Island)

Hashima Island is Farriers last stop on Dark Tourist, but it doesn’t seem like a mere afterthought. It’s an impressive place in its own right. In fact, as David reminds us: “60 years ago it was the most densely populated place on earth.” Now it’s abandoned. At one point there was a coal mine beneath the island. However, it became un-economic and people left in droves.

On the surface, it seems there’s not much to be said of an empty place. Still, it has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it does have tourists. While this episode only looks at a fraction of Japan, one can easily sense that it’s a fascinating place. Still, you might want to avoid touring a nuclear disaster zone. Seriously.

That’s it for this Dark Tourist recap. Let us know what you think in the comments!