Considered one of the most prominent filmmakers in the history of animated films, Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese animator and manga artist. A co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki has gained worldwide acclaim as a maker of animated films and a masterful storyteller. Miyazaki has served as an inspiration to several world-renowned animators and directors, including James Cameron and Wes Anderson.
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka made history by being the first player of Asian origin to hold the world number one rank in singles. Osaka made headlines when in 2021, she withdrew from the French Open after refusing to be part of a press conference to protect her mental health.
Shinzō Abe was a Japanese politician who became the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Japan after serving as prime minister of Japan from 2006 to 2007 and then from 2012 to 2020. Aged 52 at the time of assuming office as the prime minister, Abe was also the youngest Japanese post-war prime minister.
Akira Kurosawa was a Japanese filmmaker. Widely considered one of the most influential and important filmmakers of all time, Kurosawa's works opened up Western film markets to the products of the Japanese entertainment industry, enabling other Japanese filmmakers to achieve international recognition. Such is his impact as a filmmaker that he is credited with contributing to the development of Asia.
Yuzuru Hanyu is a Japanese figure skater. Considered one of the greatest male figure skaters of all time, Hanyu became only the second figure skaters ever to receive two successive Olympic gold medals; he achieved this feat in 2014 and 2018. He also won the 2020 Four Continents Championships, becoming the only male singles skater to accomplish a Super Slam.
Ichiro Suzuki is a Japanese former baseball player who played as an outfielder in top-level professional leagues, including Major League Baseball (MLB). Also a popular player at the Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan, Suzuki became the first MLB player to be inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.
American actor, voice actor, and comedian, Pat Morita first gained recognition with drama series Happy Days, though it was his inspiring performance as Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid film series that really skyrocketed his fame. The Asian-American actor was also known for his TV movie Amos and animated movie Mulan and Mulan II where he voiced the Chinese Emperor.
Yoko Ono is a Japanese multimedia artist, peace activist, and singer-songwriter. She came into prominence after marrying John Lennon of the Beatles. She is widely criticized for her unquestionable influence over John Lennon and his music. She is also often blamed for the disbandment of The Beatles. Despite all these criticisms, Yoko Ono continues to go on her merry way.
Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder and first shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. He is considered one of the three "Great Unifiers" of Japan. He was the son of Matsudaira Hirotada, a minor local warlord. He grew up to be an ambitious young man with exemplary leadership qualities and eventually founded the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan.
George Miller, also known as Joji and Filthy Frank, is a Japanese singer-songwriter, record producer, author, and comedian. He began his career in the entertainment industry through his many now-defunct YouTube channels. After gaining fame as a social media personality, he retired his channels to focus on his mainstream musical career. He now produces R&B and Trip-Hop music.
Akihito served as the 125th emperor of Japan after succeeding his father to the Chrysanthemum Throne. As emperor, he played a crucial role in inspiring people in 2011 when Japan was struck by two major disasters: Fukushima I nuclear crisis and Great East Japan Earthquake. Akihito abdicated the throne in 2019, becoming the first emperor to do so since 1817.
Affectionately called Sho Time and the Japanese Babe Ruth, Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani is known for his successful stint with the MLB team Los Angeles Angels. Earlier, while with the Hokkaido-Nippon Ham Fighters, he set the record for the fastest-ever pitch thrown by a Japanese player.
Hiroyuki Sanada gained prominence when he starred alongside Tom Cruise, in The Last Samurai. It opened the gates of Hollywood for him which was followed by various television shows and films. He bagged in the Japanese Academy Award for Tasogare Seibei (The Twilight Samurai).
Miyamoto Musashi was a Japanese swordsman, writer, strategist, and philosopher. Widely regarded as a Kensei, Musashi became famous through his stories of bravery, which involves his undefeated streak of 61 duels. He is also credited with founding the Niten Ichi-ryū school of swordsmanship. His life has inspired several films, TV series, stage plays, and video games.
Hideki Tojo headed the Imperial Japanese Army and was the Japanese minister of war, apart from being Japan’s prime minister from 1941 to 1944. His tenure witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. After Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers, Tojo was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death.
Naruhito, the 126th emperor of Japan and the only living monarch to use the title “Emperor,” ascended the throne after his father Akihito’s abdication in 2019. Devoted to efforts of water conservation, Naruhito has also been part of the International Olympic Committee. He plays both the violin and the viola.
While tragic hero characters shot him to fame, the Japanese actor is recognized by global audience for his roles in The Last Samurai and Godzilla. Having started his career as a stage actor, Ken Watanabe is known for playing Samurai roles in Japanese films. He was also cast in the lead role in The King and I staged on Broadway.
One of the most promising young wrestlers from Japan, Kanako Urai, better known as Asuka and Kana (previously), has been making a name for herself as part of the WWE. Known for her multi-colored hair, she is a Grand Slam Champion, and holds the NXT, Raw, and SmackDown Women’s titles.
Akira Toriyama is a Japanese character designer and manga artist. The creator of one of the most popular manga series of all time, Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama is widely considered one of the most influential artists to have changed the history of manga; his creation Dragon Ball is often cited as a source of inspiration by several manga artists.
Shinsuke Nakamura is a Japanese wrestler best known for appearing in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) where he has won several championships, such as the Intercontinental Championship, United States Championship, and SmackDown Tag Team Championship. In 2016, Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine named him the Most Popular Wrestler of the Year. He is also known for his association with New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Born to a Japanese mother and a French-Canadian father, Maria Ozawa was raised in Japan and began her career in adult films at age 19. Also known as Miyabi, she has worked on Japanese TV shows and has also worked as a model. She is also known as an AV Idol.
Japanese organizing expert Marie Kondo gained fame with her bestselling books on organizing, such as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which have been translated into languages such as Italian, Korean, French, and German. She also earned an Emmy nomination for her Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
Emperor Meiji of Japan presided over the all-round revolutionary transformation of his empire which emerged as a strong force on the global scene during his reign. His policies and actions led to Japan’s rapid growth and ended its isolation from the rest of the world. One of the noted changes during rule was the abolition of special privileges of samurais.
Junji Ito is a Japanese manga artist known for his horror manga series, such as Tomie, Uzumaki, and Gyo. Tomie has been adapted into a series of Japanese films, while Uzumaki was adapted into a 2000 film of the same name. In 2019, Junji Ito was honored with an Eisner Award for his work.
Sonoya Mizuno is an English actress, ballet dancer, and model. She started her professional career as a model, working for world-renowned brands, such as Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton. Thanks to her skills as a ballet dancer, which she learnt at the Royal Ballet School, Mizuno landed roles in dance films like High Strung, which kick-started her film career.
Issei Sagawa is a Japanese murderer, necrophile, and cannibal. He garnered international attention when he murdered, mutilated, cannibalized, and raped Renée Hartevelt's corpse for several days in Paris in 1981. Although he was arrested, Sagawa was released two years later after being found legally insane. Issei Sagawa has been the subject of many documentary films.
Shinji Kagawa is a Japanese footballer who plays as a midfielder. He has the distinction of having played for top-notch European football clubs, such as Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. Known for agility on the field, Shinji Kagawa is currently part of the Greek club, PAOK Thessaloniki, after his contract with Spanish team, Zaragoza, was terminated.
Japanese samurai and daimyō Toyotomi Hideyoshi of the Sengoku period, also known as the second Great Unifier of Japan, became the Chancellor of the Realm (Daijō-daijin) and Imperial Regent (kampaku). He constructed the Osaka Castle, banned slavery, and established the Tokugawa class system and the Council of Five Elders.
Japanese kawaii metal sensation Suzuka Nakamoto is best known for being part of the band Babymetal. Also known as Su-metal, she entered the world of showbiz with Jewel Drop commercials and later won a kids’ audition. She has also been part of the idol girl group Sakura Gakuin.
Japanese-American actor Makoto Iwamatsu, or Mako, is remembered for his Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated role of Po-Han in The Sand Pebbles. He also appeared in Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, and Seven Years in Tibet. He delivered a Tony-nominated performance in Pacific Overtures and co-founded East West Players.
Rinko Kikuchi is a Japanese actress who received an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Chieko Wataya in the 2006 psychological drama film Babel. Rinko is the first Japanese actress to receive an Oscar nomination in five decades. Her work in Babel also earned her several awards, such as Gotham Awards and a Chicago Film Critics Association Award.
Born to a Japanese father and an Iranian mother, Sefat Farid Yu Darvish, better known as Yu Darvish, started playing baseball in second grade. Known for his baseball skills and his 6’5” frame, he is a 4-time All-Star and has played for teams such as the Chicago Cubs and the LA Dodgers.
Mutsuhiro Watanabe was an Imperial Japanese Army soldier in World War II. Following Japan’s defeat, he was classified a war criminal for his mistreatment of prisoners of war (POWs) by the US Occupation authorities. However, the US authorities could not capture him. In his later years, he became an insurance salesman and grew wealthy.
Eiichiro Oda is a Japanese manga artist best known as the creator of the series One Piece. The series is both the best-selling manga and the best-selling comic series of all time. He decided to become a manga artist as a child and began working as an assistant manga artist as a teenager, quickly gaining fame and fortune.
Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese printmaker, ukiyo-e painter, and artist of the Edo period. He is best known as the creator of the monumental Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, a series of landscape prints, which includes the iconic print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa. He is credited with transforming the ukiyo-e art form to include a much broader style of art.
Toshiro Mifune was a Japanese actor best known for his collaboration with director Akira Kurosawa. The two worked together for 16 films, most of which are considered cinema classics. In 1986, Mifune was honored with the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon. In 2016, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.