Article: Top Ten Japanese Celebrities Who Bagged International Awards

Japan, the rising soft power aided by famous animes and music, has a lot of rising and legendary stars too. Though it’s rare for an Asian celebrity to bag international awards with the racial barriers, lack of ‘accessibility’ and whatnot, there are few who rose to stardom regardless and bagged international notice with their work and skill. Today we’ll look at these accomplished Japanese personalities who made a name for themselves in the international community.

1. Ken Watanabe

A famous Japanese actor, he rose to fame as the unfortunate hero type roles he played; General Tadamichi Kuribayashi in Letters from Iwo Jima and Lord Katsumoto Moritsugu in ‘The Last Samurai.’ He’s acted in many critically acclaimed films like Batman, Inception, etc. Along with winning numerous domestically revered awards like The Blue Ribbon Awards and Japan Academy Film Prize, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the Academy Awards (The Oscars), The Golden Globes, Saturn Awards, etc. in 2004 for his work in ‘The Last Samurai.’  He won the Achievement in Acting award at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 2006.

2. Yuya Yagira

He made headlines in 2004 for becoming the youngest ever winner of The Best Actor Award in the history of the Cannes Film Festival for playing Akira, a 12-year-old abandoned by his mother with his other half-siblings. The movie was based on the Sugamo Child Abandonment case and received wide critical acclaim.

3. Masi Oka

Or ‘Masi Yoka,’ as he’s known, is a triple threat; an actor, producer, and digital effects artist. He rose to fame for portraying Hiro Nakamura in NBC’s Heroes. He got nominated as Best Supporting Actor for numerous awards, namely Emmy, The Golden Globes, Teen Choice Awards, etc. He also received the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.

4. Miyoshi Umeki

She was a singer and an actress. She became the first Asian and Japanese woman to win the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her work in Sayonara in 1957, where she portrayed the character Katsumi. She was further nominated for the Golden Globes three times for various works and a Tony Award.

5. Toshiro Mifune

One of the legendary actors in the Japanese entertainment industry, Mifune is lauded for his exemplary performances in various films. He has worked on over 150 feature films and used to collaborate with renowned director Akira Kurosawa, who has stated many of his projects wouldn’t exist without Mifune. Some of his noticeable films that have received widespread critical acclaim are Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Red Beard, etc. He had been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Special for his work in ‘Shogun’ in 1981, was nominated for a BAFTA in 1956 for Best Foreign Actor, and won Best Actor twice in the Venice Film festival in 1961 and 1965 for ‘Yojimbo’ and ‘Red Beard’ respectively. He went on to win several more domestic nominations and triumphs as well as a few international ones, and in 2016, he was honored with The Hollywood Walk of Fame.

6. Hikaru Utada

She’s a Japanese-American pop singer. Considered to be one of the most popular singers in Japan, she has achieved widespread commercial success and has been honored with numerous domestic awards, including MTV awards. She won the Best Selling Japanese and Asian Artist twice in the World Music Awards.

7. Hirokazu Koreeda

He’s a renowned director and has directed over a dozen feature films that achieved critical success like Nobody Knows, After the Storm, etc. He has received many film festival accolades, including Best Director at the 2009 Asian Film Awards, Palme d'Or for his 2018 film Shoplifters, and many more. Shoplifters also got nominated for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

8. Yoko Ono

She’s a Japanese multimedia artist, singer, songwriter, and peace activist. She rose to significant fame after marrying Beatles fame John Lennon. She formed the band ‘Plastic Ono Band’ in 1969 with her husband and released several avant-garde albums throughout the 70s. She received a Grammy for her chart-topping Double Fantasy. She has also received various other nominations and awards for her music. Ono also received the Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt Human Rights Award for her peace activism.

9. Hayao Miyazaki

Maybe one of the most celebrated artists in Japan, Miyazaki is several things at once; animator, director, producer, screenwriter, author, and manga artist. He co founded the legendary Ghibli Studios, which gave birth to some of the most celebrated animated films ever. His works have afforded him the honor of being known as one of the most skilled and successful animation directors of all time. He has been nominated for the Academy Award times and won Best Animated Feature in 2003 for Spirited Away. He won the Annie Awards 3 times along with numerous film festival awards and domestic awards. He has been nominated for many international and domestic awards as well, including a BAFTA.

10. Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa is considered one of the most influential and significant filmmakers in history. His career has been recorded and honored through various biographies, studies, and more. He received the honorary Academy Award in 1990 for his ‘cinematic accomplishments. He won two BAFTAs in 1981 and 1987 for Best Director (for Kagemusha) and Best Foreign Language Film (for Ran), respectively. He has received many prestigious domestic and international awards and nominations, including the Palme d'Or, Berlin International Film Festival, Amanda Awards, Venice Film Festival, etc.