“Toyohiro flew on the 11th expedition to the Mir space station, titled Soyuz TM-11”
Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in present-day Russia.
On 2 December 1990 the day had finally come for Toyohiro as he became the first Japanese person in space, surpassing his fellow countryman who were waiting to travel to space through the United States’ space program. Toyohiro flew on the 11th expedition to the Mir space station, titled Soyuz TM-11, along with Soviet cosmonauts Viktor Afanasyev and Musa Manarov.
Although the cost of the deal hasn’t been released, the Soviets claimed that they received £10.7 million ($14 million) and labelled it their first commercial spaceflight. For eight days on the Mir space station Toyohiro was broadcasting his experiments and experiences, making one ten-minute television broadcast and two 20-minute radio broadcasts each day.
This once-in-a-lifetime experience was brought to an end for the chainsmoking reporter for TBS aboard the Soyuz TM-10. This concluded the multi-million-pound commercial space extravaganza and put Toyohiro in the history books as not only the first Japanese astronaut, but the first ‘space correspondent’.
Toyohiro left TBS in 1995 and pursued a career in organic farming in Fukushima. However, in March 2011 the farm was hit by a nuclear disaster and Toyohiro was forced to leave his farm behind. Afterwards he took up a faculty position with the Kyoto University of Art and Design in Kyoto, Japan. In an interview with The Japan Times he described seeing Earth from space with fascinating words: “But what still struck me as impressive was the shining blue Earth, which looked like one form of life floating in the universe,” Toyohiro said.
“At the same time I was reminded of the thinness of the blue layer, which is the atmosphere. So it made me visually aware that the atmosphere is so thin, and such a thin atmosphere protects every living thing – forests, trees, fish, birds, insects, human beings and everything.”
Toyohiro conducted live reports from theMir space station