Interview: Chatting With KUNI RX, Star of Royal Caribbean International's AQUATHEATER

"I want to bring Japanese entertainment to the world with my 26 years of experience."

By: Nov. 28, 2023
Interview: Chatting With KUNI RX, Star of Royal Caribbean International's AQUATHEATER

KUNI RX: In 2018, 2022, and 2023, KUNI RX captivated audiences from over the world with acrobatic martial arts performances as the main character in "AquaTheater" aboard one of the world's largest luxury cruise ships, Royal Caribbean International's "Symphony of the Seas" which sails the Caribbean and European countries. Combining various acrobatics such as rhythmic gymnastics and martial arts, he has been active in stage live performances, movies, motion capture, and as an acrobatics instructor both domestically and internationally. His notable works include “WaterWorld" at Universal Studios Japan, a stunt double for “KAMEN RIDER WIZARD," Hollywood movie "Blade of the 47 Ronin," and the motion capture for "Demon Slayer." Currently, KUNI RX is dedicated to strive to spread Japanese traditional entertainment worldwide by his unique style, blending with Japanese culture “Ninja” and his 26 years of experience.

Interview: Chatting With KUNI RX, Star of Royal Caribbean International's AQUATHEATER
KUNI RX performing in the AquaTheater on 
Royal Caribbean International's Symphony of the Seas

Tell us about your experience as the main character in the AquaTheater on Royal Caribbean International's luxury cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas. How did you land this job, and what was the process like?

I first went in November 2018. A member of my martial arts team, who was already there, contacted me and asked if I would be interested in the contract for the upcoming season. Despite currently being engaged in another job, I was eager to try it out. I sent my video, profile, and photos to Royal Caribbean, and they responded with a positive affirmation, saying, "You're great! Please come." It happened without an audition, and that's how it all started.

Can you share your feelings when you secured the job, the challenges during rehearsals, and how you overcame them, leading up to the actual performances?

I was excited because I wanted to go abroad, but being the lead in a show on the one of world's largest luxury cruise ships made me wonder, "Am I really up for this?" I designed almost all of my choreography and structure myself, and though I initially had some concerns, as rehearsals progressed, I realized, "Okay, I can do this!" 

Interview: Chatting With KUNI RX, Star of Royal Caribbean International's AQUATHEATER

The AquaTheater, being outdoors on the ship, presented challenges with a slippery floor, wind, and the swaying of the ship. The costumes were soaked and heavy, and being on stage almost continuously demanded a significant amount of stamina. It was a tough show, especially in terms of physical endurance. Performing this show six times a week, with two shows a day, three days a week, for a year was physically demanding. I personally think, "I did well!" It was tough. Among all the shows I've done, the physical intensity of this show was unparalleled.

The first time I went, I had a basic choreography in mind, and as I tried it out, I adjusted and refined it over the course of a year. The first year left me feeling like I hadn't fully expressed what I wanted, but for the second year, having understood everything, I crafted a more demanding routine. It turned out to be much more challenging than the first, and I thought, "This is intense!" Yet, I managed to pull through. For the third year, I stuck to the same content as the second. It was by far the most physically demanding show in my entire entertainment career.

Regarding the work on a ship in a foreign country with the international environment, what were your initial impressions, and how did the actual experience compare?

Interview: Chatting With KUNI RX, Star of Royal Caribbean International's AQUATHEATER

There was no resistance at all. Everything was a first, and the excitement of going on a luxury cruise ship overshadowed any concerns. However, my limited English skills posed a challenge since contracts, ship rules, and rules outside the stage were all in English. I managed somehow, relying on sheer determination. I gradually learned through experience what not to do, thinking, "Oh, I shouldn't do this," and mostly relied on intuition.

Do you have any memorable stories from your time on the ship?

As the lead and a Japanese person, I often had customers approach me, saying, "Were you in the show yesterday? Let's take a photo together!" 

What made me happiest was that, despite often performing while feeling unwell and dizzy, there were children sitting in the front row on one such day. These kids had drawn pictures on their own, and at the end of the show, they came over to me and handed them to me, saying, "We love this show!" Realizing that they came because they truly loved and wanted to watch the performance, even on a day when I wasn't feeling well, made me think, "I need to get my health in order and deliver a solid performance!" Their drawings are still hanging in the hallway of the dressing room.

Interview: Chatting With KUNI RX, Star of Royal Caribbean International's AQUATHEATER
KUNI RX performing in Ninja style

Were there any discoveries during this job that made you want to attempt something new? How do you plan to incorporate these experiences into your future endeavors?

Just recently, I received an offer for the next season on the ship, but I turned it down. I also declined two other ship offers. The reason is that going abroad made me truly appreciate the greatness of Japan. I thought, "Ah! Japan is indeed a wonderful country." Japanese qualities, culture, traditions, anime, manga, music—they are all still beloved worldwide. Through various experiences, I want to combine Japan's culture and traditions with my 26 years of experience and bring Japanese entertainment to the world. I strongly feel the need to create and promote our own style of entertainment internationally.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am engaged in creative activities that blend Japanese culture and traditions with the full range of skills I have acquired over my 26-year career. I am shaping my identity in a style inspired by the "Ninja" concept, a fusion that complements my abilities well. My creative pursuits involve collaborations with traditional performers, individuals possessing unique Japanese talents, and various others. The theme is to showcase elements that Japanese people have built and achieved throughout history, bringing these aspects to the world. I am in the process of creating a new entertainment showcase through these collaborations.

Interview: Chatting With KUNI RX, Star of Royal Caribbean International's AQUATHEATER

I am also involved in performance and video production. Additionally, I perform street entertainment with a microphone, engaging with the audience while speaking. I participate in events, shows, and street performances. Broadly speaking, these are the two main aspects of my current activities.

At the moment, I am not actively involved in teaching. I prefer a style where we create everything ourselves, engage in negotiations with clients directly, and take the lead in our activities.

Furthermore, in February and March of next year, I will be performing at the Shimbashi Enbujo in "Super Kabuki Yamato Takeru.(スーパー歌舞伎 三代猿之助四十八撰の内 ヤマトタケル))” I will play the role of an acrobat, contributing to the energy of both the actors and the audience. Please come and watch the performance.

Do you have any message for those who admire your work and aspire to pursue similar paths?

I have been a boy who loves to move around since I was little. In elementary school, I saw a gymnastics manga and thought, "I want to try gymnastics!" When I entered junior high school, I happened to transfer schools, and in the new school, there was a gymnastics club— it was like a miracle! So, starting from the age of 13, I began practicing artistic gymnastics. It was a start born out of chance, and before I knew it, it has been 26 years.

I believe I am where I am today because I've been consistently doing what I love. Pursuing what I truly want, regardless of what others say or think, and pushing forward unwaveringly, is what opens up the future. Taking proactive steps, acquiring skills that are recognized globally, meeting various people, and actively promoting yourself are all crucial. So, I encourage everyone to pursue what they want, make it a habit, continue and improve daily! Appreciate and convey gratitude to those around you who help you, and definitely realize what you want to achieve!

Lastly, my motto is "Lifelong Health, Habit Continuation, Maintenance, Improvement.”

Photo Credit: [N/A]