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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Brian Tee is a Japanese American actor. He is best known for playing Dr. Ethan Choi in the popular medical drama TV series, Chicago Med. Tee has reprised his role as Ethan in spin-off series, such as Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. He has also appeared in popular films like The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Jurassic World.
Once a popular child actor, Haruma Miura stormed the Japanese film scene after an impactful performance as Hiro in Koizora. He had also tried his luck in singing and had starred in series such as Last Cinderella. He shocked his fans by committing suicide by hanging at age 30.
Japanese actor Tadanobu Satō, better known as Tadanobu Asano, had begun his acting career at 16, with the show Kimpachi Sensei, at his father’s insistence. He later gained critical acclaim with roles in films such as Maborosi and Fried Dragon Fish. He has also sung for the band Mach 1.67.
Best known for his award-winning voice role of Light Yagami in the manga series Death Note, Mamoru Miyano is an anime artist who has also released singles such as Kuon and Discovery. The artist, who is also known as Mamo, or Mamo-chan, is also a skilled harmonica/harp player.
Taiwanese-Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro was not seen in any major projects after his successful stint in the romantic comedy This Is Not What I Expected, till he announced he was part of the much-delayed Sons of the Neon Night. He is also popular as Samanosuke from the Onimusha video games.
Takeshi Kitano is a Japanese comedian, TV presenter, author, actor, and filmmaker. He gained international fame in the 1970s as one half of the comedy duo Two Beat. He later pursued a solo act and became one of the top comedians in Japan. He then ventured into acting and direction as well. He won the Golden Lion award in 1997.
Though Daisuke Ono initially wished to build a career in TV broadcasting, criticism from one of his art institute professors made him move toward acting. The Seiyu Award-winning voice actor is now known for his performances in manga series such as Black Butler and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
Sadao Maeda, better known as Sonny Chiba, was initially a talented gymnast, aspiring to be part of the Japanese Olympic team, though a back injury ended his sports career. Trained in martial arts, he later soared to fame with movies such as The Street Fighter. He died of COVID-19 at age 82.
Takuya Kimura is a Japanese actor, radio personality, and singer. He is best known for his association with SMAP, one of East Asia's best-selling boy bands. After starting his career as a singer, Kimura found considerable success as an actor, which catapulted him to stardom and turned him into a Japanese icon. His acting skills have earned him several awards.
Scouted while still in high school, Takeru Satoh is best known as Ryotaro Nogami from the Kamen Rider Den-O franchise. He had earlier worked as a child actor and was also skilled in baseball and martial arts. He has also starred in the live-action movie Rurouni Kenshin, based on a popular manga.
Sessue Hayakawa was a Japanese actor who became a popular Hollywood star during the silent film era. He was the first Asian actor to achieve stardom in Europe and the United States of America. Renowned for portraying sexually dominant villains, Sessue Hayakawa became a heartthrob among American women; he was also one of Hollywood's first male sex symbols.
Initially a karate enthusiast, Hiroshi Kamiya later deviated to theater and eventually became one of the most successful anime artists in Japan. He is best known as Trafalgar Law from One Piece and has also co-hosted the radio show Dear Girl: Stories. He often collaborates with director Akiyuki Shinbo.
Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike is best known for his masterpieces such as the action-horror Ichi the Killer and the samurai film 13 Assassins. Though he initially wished to be a motorbike racer, he later joined a film school. His films are known for his controversial, violent, and sexually provocative themes.
Tomohisa Yamashita is a Japanese singer, TV host, and actor. After joining talent agency Johnny & Associates at the age of 11, Yamashita has been active on TV ever since. He is best known for his portrayal of Kusano Akira in the 2005 TV drama Nobuta Wo Produce. Over the years, he has won several Nikkan Sports Drama Grand Prix awards.
Initially aspiring to be a math teacher, Masaki Suda later stepped into the world of entertainment. He was scouted by agents in school and later gained fame with the Kamen Rider TV and film franchise. His debut movie, The Backwater, won him the Japan Academy Prize for the best newcomer.
With his Billboard number one track Sukiyaki, Kyu Sakamoto became the first to score a pop number one with a song entirely sung in Japanese. Born to a restaurateur, he had started his career singing in jazz clubs. He died in a 1985 plane crash that killed over 500 people.
Sota Fukushi is a Japanese actor who has been active in the entertainment industry for over a decade. He started his career by playing minor roles in TV shows and films. He gained international prominence with his role of Gentaro Kisaragi in the Kamen Rider franchise. He is also popular for his appearance in the TV show My Lover's Secret.
Nobu Matsuhisa is a Japanese restaurateur and celebrity chef best known for his fusion cuisine; he often blends Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients, creating a new style of cuisine. Matsuhisa owns restaurants in several countries and has also authored many cookbooks.
Initially a model, Japanese actor Kenichi Matsuyama later stepped into films. He is best known for playing L in the Death Note film franchise and Toru Watanabe in the movie version of Norwegian Wood. He has also won awards such as the Japan Academy and the Blue Ribbon awards.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a Japanese film director and film critic. He is also a professor at Tokyo University of the Arts. Interested in filmmaking from a young age,he received his training under prominent film critic Shigehiko Hasumi before beginning his career. He has worked in numerous genres and is best known for his many contributions to the Japanese horror genre.
Apart from being a martial artist, Sho Kosugi was also one of the best actors of the Japanese ninja craze of the 1980s. The son of a fisherman, he had begun learning martial arts at age 5. Nicknamed The Visible Ninja, he later impressed audiences in films such as the Cannon ninja trilogy.
Tatsuya Nakadai is a Japanese actor best known for his versatility and collaborations with popular Japanese film directors. One of the most celebrated actors, Nakadai has been honored with prestigious awards like the Blue Ribbon Award. In 2013, Tatsuya Nakadai received the Asahi Prize for his outstanding contribution to the field of art.
Takashi Shimura was a Japanese actor who appeared in 21 of Akira Kurosawa's 30 movies, most by an actor. In a career that spanned almost 50 years, Shimura appeared in more than 200 films, including classics like Seven Samurai and Rashomon. In 1974, Shimura's contribution to the arts was honored by the Japanese government with the Medal with Purple Ribbon.
Kazunari Ninomiya is a Japanese singer, radio host, songwriter, voice actor, and actor. He is best known for his association with the popular boy band, Arashi. Over the course of his successful career, Kazunari Ninomiya has won several prestigious awards, such as Nikkan Sports Drama Grand Prix, Japan Broadcast Film Arts Award, Hochi Film Award, Hashida Award, and Galaxy Award.
Popularly known as the Clint Eastwood of Japan for playing brooding characters, Ken Takakura has mostly been part of yakuza movies that dealt with organized crime. He soared to fame with Abashiri Prison and later delivered award-winning performances in films such as Station, The Yellow Handkerchief, and Poppoya.
Genki Sudo is a Japanese MMA fighter, singer, dancer, and politician. Known for his unorthodox fighting style and elaborate ring entrances, Sudo was a kickboxer before focusing on his career in the Japanese entertainment industry. He then became a member of a prominent political party in Japan in 2019. Sudo is currently serving as a Member of House of Councillors.
Masaharu Funaki, better known by his stage name, Masakatsu Funaki, is not just a skilled mixed martial artist and wrestler but also a fine actor. He also co-established the MMA promotion company Pancrase. Nicknamed the Modern-Day Samurai, he has performed in movies such as Shadow Fury and Godzilla: Final Wars.