Hayao Miyazaki, photo by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology – Wikimedia

10 Famous Japanese people


Japan has some of the world’s greatest authors, musicians, directors and thinkers. The Japanese are also known for their resilience, hard work, honesty, intelligence and being disciplined.

This country is made up of several islands on the Pacific Ocean. The people from this country are known for their contribution in culture, science and technology, religion and philosophy, fine arts, and literature.

Despite living in a country that gets frequent earthquakes and tsunamis, the Japanese are brave and nothing stops them from achieving their dreams.

Here are the 10 famous Japanese people that you need to know. 

1. Hayao Miyazaki – Animation Director

Hayao Miyazaki, photo by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology – Wikimedia

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the greatest animation directors in Japan. He is excellent in creating entertaining plots, compelling characters, and breathtaking animation in his films.

This has earned him international recognition from critics as well as the public in Japan. Hayao is also the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, a film and animation studio.

The studio was founded in June 1985, by Hayo, Takahata, Tokuma and Suzuki.  They were funded by Tokuma Shoten.

Their first film was Laputa: Castle in the Sky released in 1986. Miyazaki’s designs for the films’ setting were inspired by Greek architecture and the European urbanistic templates.

2. Ken Watanabe – Actor

By Thore Siebrands – Wikimedia

Ken is a renown Japanese actor. He is famous for playing tragic hero characters such as General Tadamichi Kuribayashi in Letters from Iwo Jima and Lord Katsumoto Moritsugu in The Last Samurai.

These roles earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He has won the Japan Academy Film Prize for Best Actor twice, in 2007 for Memories of Tomorrow and in 2010 for Shizumanu Taiyō.

Ken starred in the reboot Godzilla as Dr Ishiro Serizawa in 2014 and in its sequel too. He has also been on Broadway during his 2015 debut at the Lincoln Centre Theatre for the production of The King and me.

Watanabe repeated his role at the London Palladium in June 2018.

3. Hiroyuki Sanada – Actor

Another famous Japanese person is Hiroyuki Sanada. He was born on the 12th of October, 1960 in Tokyo. His first film debut was when he was 5 in Game of Chance (1965).

Sanada has established himself as an actor who is skilled at playing a variety of roles. He was first noticed as a serious actor in the movie Mahjong Hourouki that was directed by Makoto Wada.

Hiroyuki started his career as an action star but is known as one of the most talented actors in Japan.

4. Haruki Murakami – Writer

Haruki is a prolific Japanese writer. All his books and stories have been bestsellers in Japan as well as internationally.

The books have also been translated into 50 languages and selling millions of copies outside his country.

Haruki has also received numerous awards, like the World Fantasy Award, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Franz Kafka Prize, and the Jerusalem Prize.

His most notable works include A Wild Sheep Chase, Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, and 1Q84.

Additionally, Murakami has written several works of nonfiction. After the Hanshin earthquake and the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack in 1995, he interviewed surviving victims, as well as members of the religious cult responsible.

5. Shinji Kagawa – Professional Footballer

Shinji Kagawa by Svetlana Beketova – Wikimedia

If you are a football fan especially of the Premier League, then Shinji Kagawa is no stranger to you. He is a professional footballer, who played for Borussia Dortmund in 2010 then signed a 2-year contract with Manchester United from 2012 to 2014.

Kagawa was the first Japanese player to ever play for the club.  He is an attacking midfielder and also plays for the Japanese national football team.

He holds the record for both the highest number of appearances and the highest number of goals scored by a Japanese player in the UEFA club competitions.

6. Yoko Ono – Artist

She is famous for marrying John Lennon who was the lead singer of the Beatles. Yoko Ono is a peace activist, conceptual artist and an Avant-Garde musician.

Ono was born in Tokyo in 1933 but migrated with her family to New York after World War II. She continues to strive for peace and using her activism to support gun control and against fracking.

Yoko has used feminist themes in her music to influence musicians as diverse as the B-52s and Meredith Monk.

Her collaboration with her husband, Double Fantasy, earned her commercial and critical acclaim as well as the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1980.

7. Marie Kondo – Author & Organizing Expert

Marie Kondo By Web Summit – Wikimedia

Marie has had international success with several books and a Netflix show. She is popular for her organization skills and decluttering.

Kondo applies her distinctly Japanese approach to order by using her own KonMari method. Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has been translated into 30 languages. She has also sold millions of copies.

Her lifestyle brand and home-keeping techniques have made her a household name. she gives lectures on KonMari methods.

8. Mari Osaka – Professional Tennis Player

Mari Osaka is a professional tennis player who plays for Japan. She and her sister, Naomi Osaka, have been compared to Serena and Venus Williams.

Mari made her Women’s Tennis Association debut at the Bank of the West Classic professional tournament. She partnered with Marina Shamayko when she was 18 years old.

Her career in tennis slowed down due to injuries thus making her miss out on winning any tournament.

9. Naoko Takeuchi – Manga Artist

Naoko Takeuchi is a renowned manga artist, famous for creating the manga series ‘Sailor Moon’. This series is one of the most popular manga comics of all time.

The series inspired the live-action movies Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon: The Movie and Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Special Act.

She has gone on to create some of the most beloved manga comics of all time. Additionally, she has also written the lyrics for some of the most popular anime songs.

10. Akira Kurosawa – Film Director

Akira Kurosawa was a film director, screenwriter, and producer who directed 30 films in a career spanning 57 years. He is considered to be one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema.

Kurosawa started his career in the Japanese film industry in 1936, after a brief stint as a painter. He made his debut as a director during World War II with the popular action film Sanshiro Sugata.