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A 'no-money world' and things for free? Japanese billionaire views our future from space

Japanese tycoon Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant Yozo Hirano became the first-ever space tourists from Japan. They flew to the International Space Station (ISS) together with Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, who is the first TASS special correspondent in orbit. The Soyuz MS-20 manned spaceship blasted off on December 8 and returned to Earth 12 days after.

In his interview with TASS onboard the ISS, Yusaku Maezawa spoke about his teenage dream of going into space that has now come true. In addition, he reveals his secret for success and his revolutionary vision of a ‘no-money’ world.

— You're participating in this interview for TASS, everyone if you don't know, this is [Yusaku] Maezawa-san.

— Nice to meet you!

— I'm Alexander Misurkin, a cosmonaut of Roscosmos, Maezawa-san is an entrepreneur, I would say, Japanese, but it would be the right word to say, from the Earth.

— Yes, yes!

— Especially because now we are on board the ISS. Talking about this station. When did this wish [about the space flight] come to your mind?

— About seven years ago.

— Seven years ago, you decided to go to the ISS?

— The ISS, yes. Do you know the company Space Adventures from America?

— Yes

— They invited us to come here... Not invited, they presented me to go to the ISS. They can arrange everything to go there [to space], so they can talk with Roscosmos and Energia [rocket and space corporation], and every Russian space company, they can have a contact. They told me these things.

— But in general, is it your dream to go to space, or did it happen just because Space Adventures invited you to this trip?

— I have loved space scenes from childhood like when I was seven or eight years old, I looked at Halley's comet in Japan at that time and at that time someday I wanted to go to space. A teenage dream.

— So it was your teenage dream and somehow it came true, what do you think happened to you along this long way, was it just luck?

— Half percent it may be luck

— Half percent?

— Yeah, 50%.

— To be able to go to space you have to do a lot of things, right? And sometimes once we were in duty C you corrected me and said "not 90%, 99.99% in your life depends on yourself."

— I think so.

— And from this perspective, what should you do, or what should you not do if you want to reach space?

— Don't give up, keep trying hard, and keep having the dream. As for me, I want to do unique things every time. I don't want to think that other people already did. I love to do unique things. So, for Japanese people, especially civilian people, this is the first time to come here as a Japanese civilian. Yozo and I are the first civilian Japanese people to come here. So, for me, this is such a unique thing.

— Definitely, for everyone.

— I'm always doing unique things since [my] youth.

— Talking about that, that would be my next question. As far as I know, you launched your first business when you were 18 years old. Could you let us know in some more detail, how it happened, how did you decide to launch it?

— Japanese high school is from 16 to 18 and I quit high school when I was 16 years old and I started [in a] music band as a drummer for that band. And I was very into music things at that time. And not only playing music as a drummer but also collecting a lot of music things from all over the world. I was buying a lot of things, a lot of stuff from all over the world. And some of them [were] very super rare. Many Japanese people couldn’t find this kind of music things. In Japan, every [one of] my friends and every [one of] my music partners were asking me to buy it <…>, and I could sell that music thing to my friend, to them. And it was my first business. So, my hobby was growing as a business.

— So, I believe it’s a very important thing, your hobby is growing and it changed your business?

— Yes, yes.

— Is it very important, what do you think?

— For me, it is very important. Because people can do it very well when they are doing what they want to do. What they like to do. What they love to do. So, a hobby should be changed to business, I think.

— I agree with you. And from this point of view, to be so successful... You're actually a very very successful businessman...

— No, no no, not so much.

— It's true, it's true, and talking about this special idea, what would be your suggestion to people who want to be also successful in something to do those things, which they love to do?

— Yes, I think so.

— Is that exactly what you would like to...?

— Please don't do what you don't like to do.

— Very common and very close to me.

— Thank you, yes.

— So we talked about your business, how to become successful, you’ve already mentioned very important things, but let's come back to this place, to low earth orbit on board of the International Space Station, and how do you like it?

— I'm now in weightlessness. And we can look at the Earth from... here. We can see the whole Earth from here. From Cupola [the name of the ISS module he is on]. It's nice, but there are a lot of clouds, unfortunately, but still, beautiful.

— Your expectation of this flight became true or you imagined it somehow in a different way?

— Much higher than I could imagine.

— So, you like it?

— Yes, of course.

— Maybe there is something which you like more or maybe there is something which you don’t like here on the station?

— Everything is better than I could imagine before. I could imagine, but just imagine, so it's not real. Arriving here my first conversation with my family was like this: "Wow. There is a station! A real station!" I cannot believe this.

— How do you like weightlessness?

— Day by day I'm adapting to this, but it’s still strange for me. Very strange.

— It's not too long of a trip — this one — what do you think, will you miss the station after that?

— I don't want to imagine that. I want to stay here for a lot of time. More days.

— Great. If we take one step back to your, if I can say, background, now you're a space flight participant — [a] civilian astronaut — you got into civilian astronaut activity through your businesses, and of course, you've got experience in making a lot of money. I think it's a very deep question at least for myself, from your perspective, does money help people to be happy?

— No

— No?

— I don't think so.

— Why?

— Money is just money. Money is just a tool for buying something and to try something, but money doesn't make us happy.

— Maybe you can explain in some other way because it's hard to understand probably for people who don't have enough money.

— For very few people — rich people — it looks good, but for the rest, 99.9% of people are suffering for money and they're always in need of it. They are living for money, unfortunately. But I think people should not be living for money.

— The first part of the question is — just imagine, just any person imagines, "Oh, I have a lot of money!" probably they think that with money they will have no problems or issues which they have right now and they expect that they will be happy, and you say "No, you're not going to be happy with money," it's hard for them to understand "why?"

— Very difficult to explain, but what can I say... I think there are a lot of problems with capitalism. Money makes more money. It's like a money game. But [this is being done] by very few people, like rich people. But the rest of the people don't have such money and their money is decreasing day by day because they cannot invest in something new, so 99% of people’s money is decreasing, but just 1% of people's money is increasing, so the difference between them is increasing. This is the capitalist system. So, it is not sustainable, I think, capitalism should be changed to something new, very soon I think.

— I would say I agree with you, but I want to imagine myself in the place of a person who might be watching us and how he or she understands it. Now you are talking about the big picture that money doesn’t make the world happy; but that’s from the 1%-person perspective. If he has the way of thinking, "Ok, I have a debt in a bank, I need to pay tomorrow, I need to buy, let's say, a house for my parents, for my family", he is still thinking about money, and you say "No, it doesn't help you, how could he or she understand you?

— I want to talk [about a] very specific story for this kind of people. Someday, money will disappear suddenly from this world. Of course, my bank account will be zero. Everyone's bank account will be zero. And everything in stores [will be] for free. So, everyone can take everything for free from stores. If you love cars you can ride a Ferrari as soon as you want — for free.

— And what will happen if let's say, one million people say — "I want to have a Ferrari today."

— Yes, maybe everyone says that a lot of lines will be in front of Ferrari shops, but people will notice this. Definitely, I’d love to drive a Ferrari once, but I don't want to keep that. I want to share this Ferrari with other people who love cars. So like these kinds of things will happen. I think.

— So, does it somehow connect this idea about the world without money with your flight patch 'world peace' could you explain it to us, is it somehow connected with your ideas about the future of the world?

— I think, and you think maybe the world should be a better place and money is an enemy of the people, so money should disappear too. And if money disappears, maybe every kind of war will also disappear and all crime [is] caused by money. So, money will disappear from this world, and every [type of] crime will also disappear. I think.

— Interesting idea.

— Money does not make us happy. Money makes us unhappy. Money helps us fight people, each other.

— So, your idea is a world without money will be much better?

— Much better.

— What should replace money if people now work for money? For what will they work tomorrow? In this type of world?

— I imagine a no-money world, people will work for people. Almost every person is working for money now, unfortunately, but in a no-money world, people will work for people.

— Is this system already present in your companies?

— Not yet. But I hope to do that. But money should disappear at the same time from all over the world. At the same time.

— If it were another person, if we stayed in another place, I would definitely say — it's impossible.

Maezawa: Everyone says that, yes! But we can just imagine.

— Yes, of course. And if you said when you were a teenager "I want to fly to space, I want to build several businesses and become very well-known in the world and a very rich person", probably it will be also not very expectable from other people, but now you stay here, you're a very successful person, you’ve reached this altitude, this space speed and probably your idea will become true.

— I hope so.

— And the world will become another world without money, and as far as I understand, you mean it will be a world for people, where people will be happier.

— Yes.

— Talking about yourself, you are, very — I would say — very experienced, but still a young person.

— Not so young.

— Maybe it’s a different thing in different cultures. I mean when we say in Russia that you're 'still young', it means you still have a lot in front of you, a lot of time for something. And my interest is, what is your next step after this place?

— I want to shoot movies about the no-money world. My explanation is not good so, people cannot understand what I imagine, so maybe I need a movie for understanding these things.

— And when should we expect this movie?

— [In] 2023 I will go on the flight to the Moon again, go to space again, and maybe after that. [In] 2025 or 2026.

— Two years later you're going to fly to the Moon?

— Yes.

— And after that make this movie about your ideas of a no-money world? We will wait.

— Certainly, money will disappear from our world. We can imagine that.

— We will wait for your flight to the Moon and this movie too. To get your idea better.

— Thank you very much!

— And probably the very last question, since your first activity in business, you became the founder of your own company, and since that time, every time you were the head of your company, you were the boss without any other bosses, now flying to this station...

— You are the boss! First time! This is the first time that I work for someone! My boss.

— How do you feel about that?

— Strange, but very comfortable. Because of you. Supercommander.

— Thank you so much!

Interviewed by Alexander Misurkin ​