Famous Japanese Film & Theater Personalities

Find out more about the greatest Japanese Film & Theater Personalities, including Hayao Miyazaki, Maria Ozawa, Akira Kurosawa, Ken Watanabe and Takami Akai.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki
6
Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: January 5, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bunkyō

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 Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa
4
Famous As: Filmmaker
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.

 3 Asa Akira

Asa Akira
42
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 3, 1986
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Japanese-American adult film star Asa Akira created history by becoming the third Asian-origin performer to win the AVN Female Performer of the Year. Known for her countless tattoos, she initially also worked on the radio show Bubba the Love Sponge. She considers herself a feminist and a sex-positive person.
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 4 Grant Imahara

Grant Imahara
4
Famous As: Electrical engineer
Birthdate: October 23, 1970
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

Grant Masaru Imahara, a Japanese-American electrical engineer, roboticist, television host and actor, began his career at Lucasfilm, where he got involved with several big budget films including Star War franchise. Later, he joined MythBusters as a member of Build Tea and was well-known for his contribution in it. His other important works include White Rabbit Project, BattleBots, Star Trek Continues etc.

 5 Hiroyuki Sanada

Hiroyuki Sanada
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 12, 1960
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Shinagawa City, 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).

 6 Ken Watanabe

Ken Watanabe
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Famous As: Actor
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.

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 7 Maria Ozawa

Maria Ozawa
4
Famous As: Adult Film Star, AV idol, Stripper, Actor, Glamour model, Model
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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 8 Mark Dacascos

Mark Dacascos
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 26, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Mark Dacascos is an actor, trained martial artist, and TV personality. He is proficient in the Wun Hop Kuen Do style of martial arts and has won several karate and kung fu championships. As an actor, he is best known for his role in the action-horror film Brotherhood of the Wolf. He is married to actress Julie Condra.  

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 9 Mako Iwamatsu

Mako Iwamatsu
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Famous As: Actor
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.

 10 Rinko Kikuchi

Rinko Kikuchi
3
Famous As: Actress
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.

 11 Haruma Miura

Haruma Miura
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Famous As: Actor, Singer, Voice actor, Child actor
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 Glenn Howerton

Glenn Howerton
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 13, 1974
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Japan

Glenn Howerton is an American actor, screenwriter, director, and producer. Howerton is known for playing important roles in TV series like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, A.P. Bio, and That '80s Show. He has also appeared in popular movies like Must Love Dogs, Crank, and Everything Must Go.

 13 Toshiro Mifune

Toshiro Mifune
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 1, 1920
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Qingdao, Shandong, Republic of 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.

 14 Kento Yamazaki

Kento Yamazaki
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Famous As: Actor
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. 

 15 Yukio Mishima

Yukio Mishima
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: January 14, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Yotsuya, Tokyo, Japan
Died: November 25, 1970

Japanese author, poet, and playwright Yukio Mishima is counted amongst the most important Japanese authors of the 20th century. His best-known works feature a fusion of traditional Japanese and modern Western literary styles. He was the founder of the Tatenokai, an unarmed private militia dedicated to traditional Japanese values. He was considered controversial due to his political activities. 

 16 Makoto Shinkai

Makoto Shinkai
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Famous As: Film director, Voice actor, Animator, Screenwriter
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.

 17 Richard T. Jones

Richard T. Jones
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 16, 1972
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture

Richard T. Jones is an American actor known for playing important roles in films like Full Court Miracle, The Wood, and Why Did I Get Married? Apart from being an actor, Richard T. Jones is also a preacher/minister and often appears in Christian drama films, such as A Question of Faith.

 18 Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu
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Famous As: Director
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

Tadanobu Asano
4
Famous As: Actor, Guitarist, Musician, Singer, Film director, Model
Birthdate: November 27, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Yokohama

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 Brian Tee

Brian Tee
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Famous As: Actor
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

 21 Ayako Fujitani

Ayako Fujitani
3
Famous As: Actor, Writer, Novelist
Birthdate: December 7, 1979
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ōsaka, 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.

 22 Satoshi Kon

Satoshi Kon
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Famous As: Animator, Film director, Screenwriter, Mangaka
Birthdate: October 12, 1963
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kushiro
Died: August 24, 2010

 23 Masi Oka

Masi Oka
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 27, 1974
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: 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.

 24 Kiko Mizuhara

Kiko Mizuhara
3
Famous As: Actress, Model
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 Takeshi Kitano

Takeshi Kitano
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Famous As: Comedian
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.   

 26 Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka
4
Famous As: Film director, Film producer, Mangaka, Animator, Physician, Writer, Designer, Screenwriter
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. 

 27 Mamoru Miyano

Mamoru Miyano
5
Famous As: Actor, Singer, Seiyū, Child actor
Birthdate: June 8, 1983
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Saitama Prefecture

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.

 28 Samaire Armstrong

Samaire Armstrong
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 31, 1980
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

 29 Sola Aoi

Sola Aoi
3
Famous As: Adult Film Star, Actor, Singer, AV idol, Tarento
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.

 30 Yoshitsugu Matsuoka

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka
3
Famous As: Voice Actor
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.

 31 James Iha

James Iha
3
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: March 26, 1968
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA

 32 Nobuhiko Okamoto

Nobuhiko Okamoto
3
Famous As: Seiyū, Singer
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 Empress Michiko

Empress Michiko
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Famous As: Consort
Birthdate: October 20, 1934
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: University of Tokyo Hospital

 34 Tao Okamoto

Tao Okamoto
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 22, 1985
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chiba, Japan

 35 Antonio Inoki

Antonio Inoki
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Famous As: Politician, Professional wrestler, Writer, Actor
Birthdate: February 20, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Yokohama

Once a reputed Japanese martial artist and wrestler, Antonio Inoki grew up in Brazil, where he won several contests of shot put, discus, and javelin. At 17, he went to the Japanese Wrestling Association and was mentored by Rikidōzan. He later established the New Japan Pro Wrestling.

 36 Hideaki Anno

Hideaki Anno
5
Famous As: Film director, Animator, Actor, Screenwriter, Film producer, Film actor
Birthdate: May 22, 1960
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ube

 37 Kairi Sane

Kairi Sane
3
Famous As: Professional Wrestler
Birthdate: September 23, 1988
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hikari, Yamaguchi, Japan

WWE wrestler and actor Kaori Housako, better known as Kairi Sane, initially represented Japanese women’s wrestling promotion Stardom, as Kairi Hojo, and also won many honors, such as the Artist of Stardom. She is also skilled in yachting, holds a degree in Japanese literature, and has taught Japanese in Cambodia.

 38 Prince Akishino

Prince Akishino
3
Birthdate: November 30, 1965
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tokyo

 39 Merle Dandridge

Merle Dandridge
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 31, 1975
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Okinawa, Japan

Born in Japan, to a Korean-Japanese mother and an African-American father, Merle Dandridge grew up in Nebraska and later gained a scholarship to study theater. She is known for Broadway musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar and series such as Greenleaf. She has also appeared in the video-game series Half-Life 2.

 40 Sada Abe

Sada Abe
3
Famous As: Geisha, Criminal
Birthdate: May 28, 1905
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kanda

 41 Takuya Kimura

Takuya Kimura
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 13, 1972
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tokyo

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.

 42 Ayumi Hamasaki

Ayumi Hamasaki
3
Famous As: Singer, Seiyū, Songwriter, Model, Actor, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Lyricist, Poet, Record producer
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.

 43 Rila Fukushima

Rila Fukushima
3
Famous As: Model
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.

 44 Miyuki Sawashiro

Miyuki Sawashiro
3
Famous As: Voice Actor
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.

 45 Natsuki Hanae

Natsuki Hanae
3
Famous As: Voice actor
Birthdate: June 26, 1991
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan

 46 Kana Hanazawa

Kana Hanazawa
3
Famous As: Voice Actress
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.

 47 Hiroshi Kamiya

Hiroshi Kamiya
5
Famous As: Voice actor
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.

 48 Takeru Satoh

Takeru Satoh
6
Famous As: Actor, Singer
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 Masahiro Sakurai

Masahiro Sakurai
3
Famous As: Game Designers
Birthdate: August 3, 1970
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Musashimurayama, Tokyo, Japan

Best known as the creator of the game series Super Smash Bros. and Kirby, Masahiro Sakurai initially worked for HAL Laboratory but quit it later and began his own company, Sora, as he wasn’t too keen on the sequels HAL was creating. His diagnosis of calcific tendinitis posed a threat to his career.

 50 Rie Takahashi

Rie Takahashi
2
Famous As: Voice Actress
Birthdate: February 27, 1994
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saitama Prefecture, 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