Hello, I’m Kohei
The view of the night sky is amazing in my hometown. During childhood, my parents and I spent most nights stargazing. Every time I looked up at the sky above me, I could feel the vast cosmic space. The view through the telescope brought the planet very close to me. It was during these explorations among the planets and the thousands of stars that I realized the earth was just a tiny, but important part of the universe. Since then, I had always dreamed of being an astronaut to explore outside of the earth. When I was 6 years old, and then again at 8 years old, I saw on TV that four new astronauts were selected in Japan. I knew that this dream could become a reality.
My family has run a family business over the past 70 years in the food/packaging sector, always having the mindset and philosophy to contribute to society through essential business. At this point, I started to think about combining my aspiration in space and my family’s passion in the food sector someday in the future.
During high school in 2008, the astronaut selection program began in Japan again. I was, unfortunately, ineligible to apply, dreaming that I would like to apply in the next selection process. I then studied really hard, entering the top school in Japan, the University of Tokyo. I majored in material engineering/material science with my bachelor’s and master’s degree, expecting that the selected program starts again soon.
Before I graduated with my master’s degree, I met a former board director of the Mitsubishi Corporation, which is the largest and well-known conglomerate in Japan. The director told me that Mitsubishi has huge value chains from the aerospace sector to the food sector and that even young professionals can serve as managerial positions in group companies at the very early stage of their careers. Moreover, Mitsubishi’s founder was born and grew up in my hometown, and I had been raised always hearing about the founder’s passion/aspiration and the long-standing philosophy “Always contribute to society by having cosmic perspectives.” of Mitsubishi. Without hesitation, I decided to join Mitsubishi, dreaming about combining space business and food business.
In 2017, I had the opportunity to work at the largest food conglomerate in Japan (one of the largest group companies of Mitsubishi), as the assistant to management. Also, I served as an intrapreneur in the food-tech/agriculture-tech business at Mitsubishi headquarter, searching for cutting-edge new business opportunities. I learned and conducted so many interesting projects in the food sector and started to think about searching for more like-minded partners on a global scale.
I came to think about becoming an entrepreneur at the intersection of space and agriculture-tech on a global scale and decided to pursue MBA at a top university. I worked really hard to apply for MBA, and got accepted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2020.
At this point, 11 years had already passed since the last selection in 2009, but there had not been any chance at all. Although waiting for a long time, I somehow started to think that the selection program might not happen before I became 40 years old, which seems to be the maximum age limit. Thus, while continuing to wait for the next selection program, I told myself, “I am going to be an entrepreneur in the space/agri-tech sector. I will do so by leveraging the environment at the Wharton school.”
Surrounded by so many aspiring students and like-minded friends with an entrepreneurial mindset, I tried to find the way to start my own startup or join an early-stage space-tech/agriculture-tech company. However, amid the mid-term exam week in October 2020, Japan suddenly announced big news; NEXT SELECTION PROGRAM for the first time in 13 years.
What perfect timing.
I must do my best to apply for the selection process. This might be the last chance for me. This is a lifetime chance that I have to do “all-in.”