Japanese Actress and Explorer Masako Isumi
Two Expeditions to North Pole
1985 and 1989


1985 Expedition


From an AP news report, Tuesday, May 21, 1985, datelined Tokyo

A Japanese actress trying to be the first woman to reach the North Pole was 120 miles from her goal but was slowed by heavy snow and breaks in the Arctic Ice, Japanese news reports said Monday.

The reports from Resolute, Canada, said the four-member Japanese expedition received its fifth airlift of supplies Sunday at 88 degrees 14 minutes north latitude.

Kyodo News Service said the group, including Masako Izumi, two Eskimo guides and Japanese Arctic explorer Tsugio Saotome, hoped to reach the pole within 10 days, before warm weather sets in.

Scan of cover from the 1985 Masako Izumi North Pole Expedition.

The news agency said the expedition, traveling on only two snowmobiles, has progressed only about 20 miles in the past week because it has been hampered by channels of water in the icepack. The nationwide newspaper Asahi Shimbun said unusually heavy snow also has been a problem for the 37-year old actress. She was quoted as saying, "I hope to get as far as I can without forgetting my original spirit of giving importance to safety and enjoying myself."

2012 Update

In January of 2012, I discovered one other philatelically documented cover from the same expedition.  I had previously thought my cover had been unique, but obviously more covers are in existence than I thought. This particular cover has a typed cachet with a very prominent Izumi autograph, and was sold on one of the auction sites in the last couple of years.  I don't have any other details at this time. Judging from the date of the postmark, I am going to guess this cover was mailed from Resolute Bay before Ms. Izumi actually departed for the pole, and the recipient might have typed in the rest of the information later. I say this in part due to the spelling of the word Resolute as Resolure. Also since the date of abandonment of this first attempt would not have been known until later, as well as the coordinates (down to the minutes) are included, it makes me think they were added later.  Contrast this to my cover illustrated above, which was clearly postmarked AFTER the abandonment of the expedition.  I have some reason to believe that my cover might have actually been carried with the expedition, while the cover addressed to Japan may have went ahead and been mailed to the recipient, who typed the information upon the cover later. I have some reason to believe that the addressee could have been a friend of Ms. Izumi.




Information found on the Successful 1989 Expedition:

Ten students from the Kumamoto Kokufu High School in Japan went to the North Pole with Ms. Izumi, and from there, they emailed other students from the North Pole.  Here is the only picture I could find of the attainment and the best I can determine, it was from the 1989 trip, not the one I had documentation for in 1985: The 1989 expedition was supposedly by snowmobile, which was likely why they achieved the pole, vs. the 88-40 attainment of 1985. An article by Mary Williams Walsh of the Los Angeles Times, which appeared at page E6 of The Daily Gazette for Sunday, July 7, 1991 reported that Ms. Izumi had reached the North Pole by snowmobile in 1989 (date not given), "trailed by an entourage of cameramen and reporters so large that locals began referring to Resolute Bay (NWT) as Little Toyko."  Other sources reported that Ms. Isumi's 1989 attempt took place in May and was her second attempt, being successful after being hauled in a sled over the ice for 61 days. This was verified by the AdventureStats website which lists the 1989 expedition as beginning on March 10, 1989 and ending on May 10, 1989,


        Izumi and Students from Kumamoto Kokufu High School at the North Pole




               Source and date unknown

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QSL.net/KGYH page last updated Friday 28 January 2012 0115Z