First Published August 27, 2015
Aurora season is upon us again in Yellowknife, and with the darker nights and colder weather comes another familiar sight: groups of Asian tourists roaming the streets, bundled in down jackets, searching for those lights in the sky.
While the appeal of our astral displays can dim for some blasé northerners, these visitors continue to swell streets, cabins and tour buses around the city, leaving skeptics certain that there must be something more about the lights that keeps so many tourists, especially from Japan, coming here. Left to their own imaginations, and perhaps influenced by ’90s television, more than a few northerners have developed their own conclusions, including the idea that there is something in Japanese culture that says that copulating under our dancing lights can produce ‘good luck’ to any offspring conceived (that ‘good luck’ often meaning conceiving a son).
Well, Yellowknifers, get your minds out of the gutters and your eyes back on the skies. At least that was the general consensus we got from the experienced tour guides we asked. Grant Beck, of the long-running Beck’s Kennels tour company, politely laughed it off, as he’s had to do a few times over the years. He told EDGE about the time came up in the 1990s to ask that very question; when he took their reporters out with a group, they asked the Japanese tourists about this directly, as Beck cringed nearby, to find they had never heard of the concept.
Seiji Suzuki, former owner/operator of pioneering tour company Canadian X (and current owner/operator of Sushi North) told us that he’s probably asked about a hundred Japanese tourists about it, and maybe only one or two have said they had heard of it, but only from their American friends. It turns out that it’s only non-Asian North Americans who talk about it, which Joe Bailey (of North Star Adventures) says just highlights their ignorance. It doesn’t help, of course, that once-popular shows like Northern Exposure helped perpetuate this rumour , with a 1992 episode that featured a scene in which a group of baby-hungry Japanese tourists rushed outside, and in pairs, when they spy the Lights dancing out the window during a local host’s speech.
The real reason Japanese tourists keep coming? Plain old curiousity and a bit of the travel bug, according to Suzuki. He says that the Japanese are just naturally curious and travel frequently because they are always seeking something new, to cross another item off the bucket list. Northern Lights tours have also been promoted heavily in Japan throughout the years. Growing up in Tokyo, however, Suzuki never heard anything more about the Northern Lights other than that they are something beautiful to see. He only started hearing about the myth when he came up here and started a tour company. It’s purely a communication problem, he figures. He told us the story of how, similarly, there is a type of white snake in the forests of Japan that many Indian tourists come to see and how, because of the language barrier getting in the way, locals made up stories to explain it to themselves, which usually had something to do with religion.
Tourists come to our city every year because the Northern Lights are beautiful. There’s nothing more to it. But hey, if you’re thinking of trying your own lucky theory out there this winter, spawning on an ice road under a veil of dancing lights, be sure to let us know how things go.