Aurora Borealis

There’s a persistent story in the north that the reason Japanese people come to see the Northern Lights has something to do with conceiving children under the aurora. Since we see many retired visitors, I’m dubious. Can you bust this myth?”

–A reader in Alaska

I don’t know about you but just the thought of making love under the aurora brings to mind some questions: how does one copulate in subzero temperatures and manage to survive? Are there special suits for this? And is using a hotel considered cheating?

Join me as I uncover the answers to all these questions, and expose much more, after the jump.

Well, it turns out that this is indeed an extremely prevalent belief among residents of Alaska, so much so that Japanese people living there are often asked this question “日本人ってオーロラの下で子供作るの?”
 (Is it true that Japanese want to conceive a baby under the Aurora?).

Tomohiro Uemura, a Japanese “Aurora Guide” living in the Yukon Territory (Canada) next to Alaska, writes on his blog, Life in the North, that he is constantly asked this question by local people. Another blogger recounts that the first time he was asked the question by a local in Alaska, he thought that it was a joke. When he said he had never heard of it, he was admonished by the questioner. “Are you really Japanese?” the person conjectured.

So how can such a prevalent rumor, repeated as if it were common knowledge, be known to so many North Americans but hardly any Japanese?

Exposing Northern Exposure

Well, it turns out that Japanese visiting the Aurora Borealis to have rampant sex underneath it, as exciting as it sounds, is a big fat not-so-urban legend. We can attribute the proliferation of the tall tale to the extremely popular, multiple award-winning American TV show called Northern Exposure, which aired from 1990 to 1995 on CBS. The show takes place in a fictional small town in Alaska called Cicely.

▼The opening scene of “Northern Exposure” shows downtown Cicely.


In the third season, Episode 20, one of the main characters, Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin), a former NASA astronaut and owner of the local newspaper and radio station, wonders why there is a sudden influx of Japanese tourists to the town. And why are they all staying at the Sourdough Lodge? The Japanese tourists have come to see the famous Northern Lights, but that’s not all.

Maurice is asked to give a lecture about his days as an Astronaut to one of these Japanese groups one evening at the lodge. He stands up in front of a packed room of attentive Japanese while an interpreter from the group repeats everything in their native language. Behind Maurice is a window, which up until now has been dark. The audience is enthralled with his speech, but it’s getting late and suddenly there is an outburst from a woman in the crowd who yells, “Hajimete!” while pointing at the window. She is seeing the first green flashes of the Northern Lights.

▼A Japanese actress points at the first rays of the Aurora coming through the window and yells “Hajimete!


As if on cue, the Japanese all start filing out of the room in twos, some hand in hand. The last couple shouts out an enthusiastic “Thank you. See you later!” as they leave. The befuddled Maurice has no idea what is going on.

The two men who own the Sourdough, and who are in the audience, stand up and address Maurice. “I’m sorry Maurice, we really should apologize.” They go on to say, “The Aurora Borealis becomes very visible about 10:30.”

Maurice: So?

Owners: That’s why they [the Japanese] come.

Maurice: Why? To look at the Aurora Borealis?

Owners: Not to look at it, no. To copulate under it.

Maurice: What?!

Owners: It’s Japanese folk wisdom. If you consummate your marriage under the Northern Lights, you will have a gifted child.

As Maurice attempts to comprehend that the Japanese are all in their rooms fulfilling their sexual fantasies under the Aurora, the owners appropriately end the scene by asking him: “Want some Cognac?”

The next day, the owners of the Sourdough see Maurice on the street and apologize again. “I’m sorry, we should have warned you,” they say.

“All that coitus taking place under one roof is a little disconcerting,” Maurice admits.


Aurora BorealisWikipedia

Even this extreme exposure doesn’t explain everything, however. For example, while the alleged folk wisdom alludes to newlyweds, none of the actors in the episode look young enough to be honeymooners. Who knows, maybe they’re parents with bad children and are determined their fourth child will be different? And if a successful consummation promises a gifted child, we still don’t know what kind of gift the child will be bearing. Perhaps she’ll be green with flashing lights.

On a Japanese forum discussing the legend, a Japanese person who goes by the moniker of “forza_tutti” says that it would make sense that a child would be gifted if conceived under the Aurora since only wealthy Japanese people could afford to travel so far for the purpose, and rich people are already providing a gifted environment for their future children.

Maurice, at the end of the Northern Exposure episode, also makes some interesting conclusions while addressing the owners of the Sourdough. “I applaud those people. You know why? Because they traveled all this way and paid you boys top dollar to procreate under our northern skies. And they did it just to improve the next generation. Those people have vision!”

So, perhaps Japan could learn something from all this. They could replicate the Aurora phenomenon as part of plans to revitalize the countryside and fight the scourge of depopulation. Surely a child conceived on the beach while watching the sunset would be more gifted than one begot in a dark, boring bedroom, for example. Borealis love hotels, anyone? Rental planetariums? Even a Northern Lights DVD to pop on at home in Japan could significantly increase the population. The Aurora is really just a power spot, like many other fertility promoting power spots in Japan. So with a bit of encouragement, perhaps we could boost the population through Japan’s domestic power spots. With light shows. I don’t know about you, but my mind is reeling.

You can watch Northern Exposure, episode 20 in its entirety on YouTube. If you just want to watch the part that relates to makin’ whoopee under the Aurora Borealis, it starts at 37:00 minutes.

Do you have a myth you’d like us to debunk? Let us know in the comments section and we’ll do our best to find out the answer!

Read another Myth-Busters article: Is Japan’s ‘Daughter in a box’ a myth?