Famous Japanese Film & Theater Personalities

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Find out more about the greatest Japanese Film & Theater Personalities, including Hayao Miyazaki, Maria Ozawa, Akira Kurosawa, Ken Watanabe and Takami Akai.
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 1 
Hayao Miyazaki
(One of the Most Accomplished Filmmakers in the History of Animation)
Hayao Miyazaki
7
Birthdate: January 5, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bunkyo City, Tokyo, Japan

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.

 2 
Pat Morita
(Actor and Comedian Known for His Role as ‘Miyagi’ in ‘The Karate Kid’ Film Series)
Pat Morita
6
Birthdate: June 28, 1932
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Isleton, California, United States
Died: November 24, 2005

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.

 3 
Akira Kurosawa
(Japanese Filmmaker Who is Regarded as One of the Most Important & Influential Filmmakers in Film History)
Akira Kurosawa
4
Birthdate: March 23, 1910
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Shinagawa City, Tokyo, Japan
Died: September 6, 1998

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.

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 4 
Hiroyuki Sanada
(Actor & Martial Artist Known for His Role as ‘Genbu’ in the Film ‘Ninja in the Dragon's Den’)
Hiroyuki Sanada
21
Birthdate: October 12, 1960
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

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).

 5 
Ken Watanabe
12
Birthdate: October 21, 1959
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Koide, Japan

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.

 6 
Maria Ozawa
(Adult Film Star, AV idol, Stripper, Actor, Glamour model, Model)
Maria Ozawa
5
Birthdate: January 8, 1986
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hokkaidō

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.

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 7 
Junji Ito
(Japanese Horror Mangaka and Writer)
Junji Ito
3
Birthdate: July 31, 1963
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Gifu, Japan

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. 

 8 
Mako Iwamatsu
12
Birthdate: December 10, 1933
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Died: July 21, 2006

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.

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 9 
Rinko Kikuchi
(Actress)
Rinko Kikuchi
3
Birthdate: January 6, 1981
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hadano, Kanagawa, Japan

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.

 10 
Toshiro Mifune
(One of Japan's Greatest Actors Known for His Films: ‘Rashomon’, ‘Seven Samurai’ and ‘The Hidden Fortress’)
Toshiro Mifune
7
Birthdate: April 1, 1920
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Qingdao, China
Died: December 24, 1997

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.

 11 
Haruma Miura
(Actor, Singer, Voice actor, Child actor)
Haruma Miura
11
Birthdate: April 5, 1990
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Tsuchiura

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.

 12 
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
(Actor, Martial artist)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
3
Birthdate: September 27, 1950
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

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

 13 
Kento Yamazaki
7
Birthdate: September 7, 1994
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Itabashi, Tokyo
Japanese actor/model Kento Yamazaki is best known for his performance as L in the series Death Note and as Minato Shindo in Good Doctor, with the latter winning him a Television Drama Academy Award. He also appeared in films such as Orange and previously modeled for Pichi Lemon magazine. 
 14 
Brian Tee
(Best Known for His Role as ‘Dr. Ethan Choi’ in the TV Series ‘Chicago Med’)
Brian Tee
9
Birthdate: March 15, 1977
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Okinawa, Japan

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

 15 
Makoto Shinkai
(Film director, Voice actor, Animator, Screenwriter)
Makoto Shinkai
3
Birthdate: February 9, 1973
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Koumi

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.

 16 
Ayako Fujitani
(Japanese Writer and Actress)
Ayako Fujitani
3
Birthdate: December 7, 1979
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Osaka, Osaka, Japan

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.

 17 
Masi Oka
(Best Known for His Roles in the TV Series: ‘Heroes’ and ‘Hawaii Five-0’)
Masi Oka
5
Birthdate: December 27, 1974
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
Masi Oka soared to fame with his Emmy-nominated and Saturn Award-winning role of Hiro Nakamura in the superhero series Heroes. The Hawaii Five-0 star is a black belt in Japanese fencing and an avid chess player. He is also multilingual and has been a translator at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
 18 
Yasujiro Ozu
(Director)
Yasujiro Ozu
2
Birthdate: December 12, 1903
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Fukagawa district, Tokyo, Japan
Died: December 12, 1963

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.

 19 
Tadanobu Asano
(Japanese Actor Known for His Films: 'Electric Dragon 80.000 V', 'Ichi the Killer' and 'Battleship')
Tadanobu Asano
4
Birthdate: November 27, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan

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.

 20 
Satoshi Kon
(Animator, Film director, Screenwriter, Mangaka)
Satoshi Kon
3
Birthdate: October 12, 1963
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kushiro
Died: August 24, 2010
 21 
Mamoru Miyano
(Actor who was nominated for the award for Death Note at the 1st Seiyu Awards and won the "Best Voice Actor" award at the 2008 Tokyo International Anime Fair.)
Mamoru Miyano
5
Birthdate: June 8, 1983
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Saitama Prefecture, Japan

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.

 22 
Takeshi Kaneshiro
(Actor and Singer Known for His Films: ‘Lost and Found’, ‘Red Cliff’ and ‘School Days’)
Takeshi Kaneshiro
4
Birthdate: October 11, 1973
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Taipei City, Taipei, Taiwan

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.

 23 
Takeshi Kitano
(Comedian)
Takeshi Kitano
8
Birthdate: January 18, 1947
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Adachi, Tokyo, Japan

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.   

 24 
Kiko Mizuhara
(Actress, Model)
Kiko Mizuhara
3
Birthdate: October 15, 1990
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas

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.

 25 
Osamu Tezuka
(Film director, Film producer, Mangaka, Animator, Physician, Writer, Designer, Screenwriter)
Osamu Tezuka
4
Birthdate: November 3, 1928
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Toyonaka
Died: February 9, 1989

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. 

 26 
Samaire Armstrong
3
Birthdate: October 31, 1980
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan
 27 
Yoshitsugu Matsuoka
(Japanese Voice Actor Best Known for Being the Voice of ‘Kirito’ in ‘Sword Art Online’)
Yoshitsugu Matsuoka
3
Birthdate: September 17, 1986
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Hokkaido, Japan

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.

 28 
James Iha
(Musician)
James Iha
3
Birthdate: March 26, 1968
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
 29 
Hideaki Anno
(Film director, Animator, Actor, Screenwriter, Film producer, Film actor)
Hideaki Anno
5
Birthdate: May 22, 1960
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ube
 30 
Daisuke Ono
(Voice Actor, Singer)
Daisuke Ono
4
Birthdate: May 4, 1978
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Sakawa, Kochi, Japan

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.

 31 
Sola Aoi
(Adult Film Star, Actor, Singer, AV idol, Tarento)
Sola Aoi
3
Birthdate: November 11, 1983
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tokyo
Scouted by an agent when she was still in high school, Sola Aoi initially became a successful gravure model and later deviated to pornography. Originally named Suzuki Miho, she chose Sola Aoi as her pseudonym, meaning Blue Sky, indicating her favorite color. She later also tried her luck in singing.
 32 
Nobuhiko Okamoto
(Seiyū, Singer)
Nobuhiko Okamoto
3
Birthdate: October 24, 1986
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tokyo

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.

 33 
Takehito Koyasu
(Seiyū, Singer)
Takehito Koyasu
3
Birthdate: May 5, 1967
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Yokohama
One of Japan’s most diverse voice actors, Takehito Koyasu has voiced over 230 different roles. He has also been part of the voice-acting group Weiss and has dubbed for many foreign actors such as Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jared Leto in live-action films. His son Kōki Koyasu, too, is a voice actor
 34 
Natsuki Hanae
(Voice actor known for voicing Tanjiro Kamado in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Ken Kaneki in Tokyo Ghoul)
Natsuki Hanae
3
Birthdate: June 26, 1991
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
 35 
Miyuki Sawashiro
(Voice Actor)
Miyuki Sawashiro
3
Birthdate: June 2, 1985
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tokyo
Her voice role as Puchiko in the English version of Leave it to Piyoko made Japanese voice actor Miyuki Sawashiro the first from her country to reprise a Japanese voice role in its English dubbed version. She had started learning English during her time in Pennsylvania in high school.
 36 
Tao Okamoto
(Actress)
Tao Okamoto
3
Birthdate: May 22, 1985
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chiba, Japan
Prince Akishino
3
Birthdate: November 30, 1965
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tokyo
 38 
Rila Fukushima
3
Birthdate: January 16, 1989
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Tokyo

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.

 39 
Takuya Kimura
(Japanese Actor, Singer and Member of Boy Bands ‘SMAP’)
Takuya Kimura
4
Birthdate: November 13, 1972
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

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.

 40 
Kana Hanazawa
( Japanese Actress and a Prolific Voice Performer in Anime)
Kana Hanazawa
3
Birthdate: February 25, 1989
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

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.

 41 
Rie Takahashi
(Japanese Voice Actress and Singer)
Rie Takahashi
2
Birthdate: February 27, 1994
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saitama, Japan
Japanese voice actor and singer Rie Takahashi is best known for her work in the anime series Seiyu's Life! She has voiced major characters in video games and anime films and series, such as Megumin in KonoSuba, Takagi in Teasing Master Takagi-san, and Hu Tao in Genshin Impact
 42 
Ryuichi Sakamoto
(Japanese Composer and Pianist Who Influenced and Pioneered a Number of 'Electronic Music' Genres)
Ryuichi Sakamoto
3
Birthdate: January 17, 1952
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

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.

 43 
Ayumi Hamasaki
(Singer, Seiyū, Songwriter, Model, Actor, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Lyricist, Poet, Record producer)
Ayumi Hamasaki
3
Birthdate: October 2, 1978
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Fukuoka

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.

 44 
Hiroshi Kamiya
(Japanese Voice Actor, Singer and Narrator)
Hiroshi Kamiya
5
Birthdate: January 28, 1975
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chiba, Japan

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.

 45 
Sada Abe
(Geisha, Criminal)
Sada Abe
3
Birthdate: May 28, 1905
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kanda
 46 
Shun Oguri
(Actor, Seiyū, Film director, Child actor, Stage actor)
Shun Oguri
5
Birthdate: December 26, 1982
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kodaira
 47 
Sonny Chiba
(Acclaimed movie actor and martial artist who appeared in Kill Bill.)
Sonny Chiba
3
Birthdate: January 22, 1939
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Fukuoka, Japan
Died: August 19, 2021

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.

 48 
Takeru Satoh
(Actor, Singer)
Takeru Satoh
6
Birthdate: March 21, 1989
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Iwatsuki-ku

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.

 49 
Yoshihiro Akiyama
(Mixed martial artist)
Yoshihiro Akiyama
6
Birthdate: July 29, 1975
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ikuno Ward, Osaka, Japan
 50 
Naoko Takeuchi
(One of the Most Popular Manga Series of All Time)
Naoko Takeuchi
2
Birthdate: March 15, 1967
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kofu, Yamanashi, Japan

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.