Japanese rocket scientist gives up lucrative career to join Cirque du Soleil
Born in Okayama, Yusuke Funaki became an engineer in the Research & Development department at Bridgestone, a world leader in tire technology, before he gave it all up to pursue his dream to join the circus.
As a 2-year research student for JAXA/Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (Japan’s NASA), Funaki researched the movements of the robotic arm used at the International Space Satellite. He received a Masters of Engineering after majoring in aerospace engineering.
After landing a lucrative job in research, Funaki saw Quidam, Cirque du Soleil’s ninth stage show. He was so impressed that he decided to start skipping rope, a task that may sound simple and child-like but not when it is featured in a Cirque du Soleil show. There is a prowess, energy and artistry of a Cirque’s skipping rope act that has many audience members wanting more.
Although skipping rope became his new passion, he still continued to make great achievements in engineering and even secured an international patent in tire engineering. But this accomplishment did not diminish his desire to join the circus. Funaki ultimately followed his heart and gave up his job to become a street performer. His pursuits took him around the world to perform in competitions which was his way to strengthen his craft and build his reputation. He found his way to Orlando after being hired by Cirque du Soleil and is now the second half of a duo that is part of the opening act for La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil, a show that has fascinated the imaginations of more than 8 million guests.
Behind the scenes of La Nouba, Funaki is referred to as NASA, a nickname given to him by his cast members after they learned about his past career in science. He performs in two shows per night on Tuesdays through Saturdays at the La Nouba Theater, located at the Walt Disney World Resort.