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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Currently a Russian citizen, Japanese actor and martial artist Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa began his training in martial art while in junior school and acting while studying in Duarte High School, California, making his breakthrough as the Eunuch Chang in The Last Emperor. Thereafter he continued to appear in numerous productions, concurrently developing a new form of martial arts called Chun Shin
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.
Best known for his animated film Your Name, which became the third-highest-grossing anime movie in history, animator and manga artist Makoto Shinkai had initially studied Japanese literature. His Weathering with You was Japan’s official submission for Best International Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. He is also dubbed The New Miyazaki.
Daughter of Hollywood actor Steven Seagal and Japanese aikido specialist Miyako Fujitani, Ayako Fujitani appeared as a lead actor in Man from Reno. A skilled writer, she has also released several books, both fiction and non-fiction. She has also directed a short play and performed as part of a band.
Yasujiro Ozu often ran away from school to watch movies at a local theater and later began his career as a camera assistant. He directed both silent films and talkies, including the masterpiece Tokyo Story, and is best remembered for his signature static camera effect and the use of the color red.
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.
Born to a Korean-Japanese mother and an American father, Kiko Mizuhara plunged into modeling after winning a Seventeen Japan contest. After winning hearts in the Japanese modeling circuit, she became a Chanel ambassador. Her designs, made in collaboration with Opening Ceremony, have been worn by artists such as Beyoncé.
Osamu Tezuka was a Japanese manga artist, cartoonist, animator, and film director. He revolutionized the manga genre in Japan and was lovingly called "the Godfather of Manga". A prolific artist, he created works for both children and adult-oriented projects. He was the recipient of several awards, including the Winsor McCay Award and the Japan Cartoonists Association Award.
Yoshitsugu Matsuoka is a Japanese singer and voice actor from Hokkaido. Best known for voicing popular animated characters like Kazuto Kirigaya, Sorata Kanda, Arata Kasuga, and Masamune Izumi, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka holds the Guinness World Record for the most unique sound bites produced by a voice actor.
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.
Japanese voice actor Nobuhiko Okamoto is best known for his award-winning performances in anime series such as A Certain Magical Index and Persona: Trinity Soul. He is also a certified shogi player and has participated in several shogi events. He has also tried his luck in singing.
Tokyo-born Rila Fukushima initially wished to be a model agent but ended up being one of Japan’s most popular models, walking the ramp for Louis Vuitton and gracing magazines such as Vogue Japan. She later appeared in The Wolverine and the series Arrow and Gunshi Kanbei.
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.
Best known as an anime voice actor, Kana Hanazawa began her career at 14, voicing Holly Mad-thane in Last Exile. She was also seen as a child actor in programs such as Yappari Sanma Daisensei. Known by many nicknames such as KanaHana and Zaa-san, she has also released several albums.
Apart from being a keyboardist and songwriter for the Yellow Magic Orchestra, Japanese pianist and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has also been a solo artist and composed tracks for films such as The Last Emperor and The Revenant. He now has a Grammy and an Academy Award in his kitty.
Japanese pop icon Ayumi Hamasaki had started a TV career after moving to Tokyo at 14. She later gained fame with her dance hits and ballads. Also known for her dramatic costumes and videos, The Empress of J-pop has been rendered totally deaf in one ear, owing to a ear infection.
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.
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.
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.
Japanese manga artist Naoko Takeuchi is best known as the author of Sailor Moon, a multiple-award-winning manga series. She was interested in becoming a manga artist from a young age. However, she studied chemistry in college to please her father. Shortly after graduation, she entered the manga industry and found success in her chosen field within a few years.