Japan’s Forgotten First Astronaut
Stardate 2006. Livedoor entrepreneur Daisuke “Dice-K” Enomoto pays $20 million to Space Adventures for a ride on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station. He then announces his attention to forgo all the customary science experimentation during his time in orbit and instead cos-play as Char Aznable and build Gundam model kits. Sure, it sounded ridiculous at the time, but perhaps in hindsight Enomoto was making a grand statement on the rise of Akihabara and anime culture on the global stage.
Yet in an equally fitting metaphor for the rapid rise and fall of Japan’s “gross national cool,” Enomoto’s otherworldly otaku aspirations never got off the ground. Unceremoniously bounced from the program for vague medical reasons, he spent the next half-decade in decidedly Earthbound courtrooms in a vain attempt to reclaim the huge sum he paid to the American space-tourism company.
Although Enomoto may certainly go down in history as Japan’s greatest failed space tourist, he can’t hold a beam-saber to Akiyama Toyohiro — Japan’s first astronaut and a living monument to the excesses of Japan’s Bubble Era.
Endeavour’s final launch