In a country known for conformity, Yusaku Maezawa has always sought to stand out.
He skipped college, moved to California to play in a rock band and started his own e-commerce company. After making it big, the 42-year-old started dropping hundreds of millions of dollars on artwork. Now the billionaire founder of Start Today is set to become the first paying passenger to the moon on a SpaceX rocket scheduled to blast off in 2023. It’s the latest headline-grabbing project by Maezawa, whose Twitter handle is @yousuck2020.
While Maezawa is relatively unknown outside the archipelago and the art world, he’s guaranteed to become more famous with his plan to fly to Earth’s biggest satellite with a cabal of artists. A self-professed art lover, the Japanese entrepreneur intends to take a combination of painters, musicians, dancers, photographers, film directors, fashion designers and architects on a week-long lunar loop, where he’ll get to watch as they get inspired and create art along the way.
“I thought long and hard about how valuable it would be to be the first passenger to the moon,” Maezawa said at an announcement at Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., sitting next to the rocket company’s CEO, Elon Musk. “I choose to go to the moon with artists.”
The flight around the moon is a marriage of Maezawa’s diverse interests: to be a visionary, to support art and to promote his company. Taking the enormous personal risk of orbiting the moon as the first private citizen would cement him in history books. Maezawa said he hopes the art created during the trip will inspire more interest and support for artists. Maezawa and Musk declined to say how much the lunar trip would cost.
“This is not us choosing him,” Musk said. “He chose us. He is a very brave person to do this.”
Maezawa made a name and fortune for himself by defying the norms of Japanese society. A former drummer in a rock band, he built shopping website Zozotown, a popular destination for younger consumers, from a mail-order music album business.
With a net worth of $2.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Maezawa made a splash in the art world in 2017 when he spent $110.5 million on a single Jean-Michel Basquiat painting at a Sotheby’s auction, setting a record for an American…