Tokyo — A Japanese billionaire has pulled the plug on his quirky, high-profile campaign to recruit a soulmate for a journey to the moon, after receiving applications from nearly 28,000 would-be romantic partners from around the globe.
Fashion entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, 44, had just finished accepting applications from candidates for his "Full Moon Lovers" project, seeking female candidates 20 and over to be his date on a lunar journey. The multi-stage process of sifting through would-be girlfriends was to be documented on a show streamed online, culminating with the choice of an orbital traveling companion in March.
Maezawa has paid an undisclosed amount to secure his seat as the first space tourist on board Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket, scheduled for lift-off in 2023.
"I've notified AbemaTV that for personal reasons, I have canceled my appearance on the Full Moon Lovers show," he tweeted. "When I think about the 27,772 people who thought carefully and took the time to apply, I really feel regretful. But going into this half-baked would be extremely rude to the applicants, so while it's selfish of me, I halted the project."
Maezawa's Twitter account is the most popular in Japan with more than 7 million followers. Some expressed sympathy for his decision to call off the romantic search.
"I was one of the applicants," one user by the name of "Hiromi" wrote on Twitter. "It's a pity, but thank you for the dream."
Others were less charitable.
"With one fell swoop — 27,722 hearts broken!" wrote one.
Some worried about potential repercussions for applicants. "This is terrible," stated a tweet by someone calling themselves Masatomo. "What will happen to all the personal data collected? Can you guarantee it won't be leaked? I really feel sorry for the applicants."
Another person complained that Maezawa's apology wasn't enough. "This can only be resolved through compensation… 10,000 to 100,000 yen ($92 to $920) per person. Before the victims get together and file a class action suit, let's see a show of your sincerity," the person behind the "Benbaystar" account chided.
If Maezawa was feeling contrite, he has hardly looked it. The magnate enjoyed an earthbound adventure this month in Hawaii.