Updated: Jan 10
I want to talk to you about Atsumi Yoshikubo.
Atsumi was born on November 3, 1968 in Japan. I unfortunately could not find any information on her upbringing or her family, only that she had been estranged from them for some time before her trip. Atsumi, a 45 year old psychiatrist, left her home city of Uto, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, and arrived to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories on October 17, 2014 for a weeks stay. On Arrival to the Explorer Hotel, she requested to book an aurora tour but unfortunately no tours were available as the off-peak season for Japanese tourism in Yellowknife is from October and November. This is because the weather is starting to get quite cold and not dark enough at night for the northern lights to be seen which is the #1 tourist attraction for Yellowknife.
Side note: I found this to be a little odd because if you plan a trip to see the northern lights, wouldn’t you also make sure that these are active during the dates of you trip. One thing to consider though is that she booked her trip through a tour operator located in Toronto, and maybe they don’t have that information, I don’t know.
Atsumi was picked up on security footage, purchasing some souvenirs from the gallery of the midnight sun which is a very popular local souvenir and gift shop on October 19th , she was picked up again on camera later that day visiting the city’s tourist information center. She was alone in both shops, and it is not uncommon for female Japanese tourist to travel here alone but they would typically join a group they would meet during a venture tour. That is not the case for Atsumi, she created her own itinerary and didn’t seem interested on meeting other tourists, I mean for each their own, I would be like that too, if I even had the balls to travel alone. I was not able to find any more information on what she did for the next 2 days, The very last video footage of Atsumi, was on the morning of October 22nd, she is seen exiting the hotel she had been staying in at 9:30 in the morning with a backpack on and holding a bag. 3 days after she was expected to check out of the hotel on October 28th, staff member finally realized that she never did, found her luggage and belongings all packed up and ready to go, left in her hotel room. This led them to contact the RCMP who then contacted the airline she was supposed to board on her way back home on October 24th, they were then notified that she had in fact missed her flight. It is then, Atsumi became a missing person.
Police then went door to door in some areas, to see if anyone had spotted Atsumi. Once news broke in town that a Female Japanese tourist has gone missing, a retired RCMP officer came forward and reported a sighting of Atsumi, out on the highway right outside of Yellowknife, walking toward Jackfish lake. This will turn out to be the last time Atsumi is seen alive. The witness was not 100% sure on the date of the sighting as she drove this route regularly. Atsumi was seen wearing a light pink winter jacket, a dark pink hat, black pants and white boots; the same clothing she was seen wearing on camera on the 19th and the morning of the 22th. She assumed this person was going for a walk to sightsee, the temperature wasn’t bellow zero and her jacket went down to her knees, nothing was cause for concern with this sighting initially, not until the retired officer found out this person is now missing.
Side Note: I read in an article that the retired RCMP officer questions what would of happened if she would have stopped. And that is sad! It is not uncommon to see people walking on the side of this highway, its not like the multilane highway that you typically have outside of a city. This is a 2 lane highway that commonly used to go from one end of town to the other, while avoiding driving through town itself. I would have no had a second thought if I would have seen someone wearing the type of clothing that Atsumi was seen in, especially at 11:30 in the morning.
A search was underway to find the missing tourist, they organized air and ground searches but had no luck. On October 30th, Locals feared that she met foul play out on the trails and started gathering in informal search group on their own to help locate Atsumi, they skied down trails and searches bushes and other areas that could not be seen by a helicopter. Searches became more urgent as Yellowknife had their first snow fall of the season, the weather grew colder and the nights longer. On November 4th Despite not finding the body, RCMP called off searches and reported that she was presumed dead, 9 days after searches began.
They also said Atsumi “arrived in Yellowknife with a plan to go into the wilderness alone and become a missing person.” Our investigation also determined she had taken steps to avoid detection.
This only confused many reporters and locals, no one understood why searches had stopped, it just brought on more questions from the public.
During this time, there was a card set up at city hall for Yellowknife’s to sign. According to a news report, councillor, Dan Wong said “I know there was a tremendous amount of local support for the search and I think it's a way for Yellowknifers to let Atsumi's family in Japan know our thoughts are with her family.”
Back home in Japan, Atsumi’s brother, Kenji Yoshikubo, was informed by the foreign ministry of Japan of a letter his sister had written and hes quoted as saying “the letter was sent to a lady friend’s house before she left Japan”, Kenji also states the ministry told him the letter suggested she was going to commit suicide. He did not believe this, he was sure his sister was coming back home, alive. he does not deny the existence of this letter but he has never seen it. He also thanked the RCMP and people from Yellowknife who helped in the search for his sister. His interview was translated from Japanese to English. Although both he a
nd his father, had not been in contact with Yoshikubo in 10 years, he did not believe she intended to die in Yellowknife. The purchases of gifts and souvenirs she made, and the fact that she had a return flight to Japan did not make sense.
In June 2015, the snow had melted and searches were back on. Many locals walked the trails, many understood that she needed to be found. Either she was found alive or dead, they wanted her to at least be found, and give her a proper resting place.
On August 31st, a hiker stumble upon some belongings alongside bone fragments. Police confirm personal belongings to be Yoshikubo’s. The bone fragments DNA were confirmed to be Atsumi Yoshikubo’s on June 14th 2016. Since there were only bone fragments left, they could not perform an autopsy to determine cause of death.
One of the few speculations about why Atsumi might have chosen to die by walking into the wilderness outside Yellowknife comes from Simon Hatcher, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Ottawa. He says that most long wilderness sojourns are a form of temporary suicide, from which people return feeling better. He also told the National Post, "People who are suicidal can have this fantasy where they can have a temporary escape—a temporary suicide,". "And maybe that way they will stand out, and somebody will come along and save them. Maybe this was some form of this woman testing fate."
This was questioned as the Aokigahara forest near Mount Fuji in Japan, where there are many suicides each year so much so they made a movie about it, was so much closer to her than The Northwest Territories in Canada. The director of a Toronto suicide prevention center told the Post, "Sometimes people romanticize about how they might control their death, and they can become fixated on a place," "Maybe this woman came to Canada to create some distance from her family, and to spare them from it."
And that is the story of the mysterious death of Atsumi Yoshikubo, was it wilderness suicide, was it an accidental death where she was planning on coming back, we do have a lot of wildlife here. What do you think occurred during her final days. Let me know in the comments.
Atsumi Yoshikubo wrote a suicide note before leaving Japan | CBC News
Atsumi Yoshikubo, Japanese tourist, still missing in Yellowknife | CBC News
Atsumi Yoshikubo, missing woman in Yellowknife, presumed dead | CBC News
The Missing Tourist: Looking for Atsumi: A moment by moment look at her disappearance (cbc.ca)
Bone fragments, DNA results confirm Atsumi Yoshikubo died, says N.W.T. Chief Coroner | CBC News
Death of Atsumi Yoshikubo - Wikipedia
Atsumi Yoshikubo Biography, Age, Height, Husband, Net Worth, Family (celebsagewiki.com)