Top 7 Japanese Actors You’ll Know From Hollywood Movies

  • Ask anyone to name their favourite Hollywood actors and you’ll probably hear the same names over and over again: Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe… but what about Japanese actors? How many of these Japanese actors have you heard of and which of them would you consider adding to your list of favourite Hollywood stars?

    1. Mako Iwamatsu (マコ岩松, born in 1933 in Kobe)

    Mako was one of the greatest Japanese actors of his time. Born in Kobe, he was living with his Grandparents when the war broke out in 1941, but later joined his parents who were living in America. Famous films he starred in include ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, ‘Pearl Harbor’ and ‘Seven Years in Tibet’. He was active up until the end of his life – he died of cancer in 2006. His last films (‘Rise: Blood Hunter’ and ‘TMNT’ – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) were released after his death.

    2. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (ケイリー=ヒロユキ・タガワ, born in 1950 in Tokyo)

    Born to a Japanese mother and a Japanese-American father, Tagawa is fluent in both English and Japanese, as well as Korean and Spanish. He is best known for his roles in ‘Pearl Harbor’, ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, but has also worked on dozens of different TV Series and short films.

    3. Ken Watanabe (渡辺謙, born in 1959 in Uonuma)

    One of the most famous Japanese actors in Hollywood, Watanabe has enjoyed roles in several popular films in recent years, such as ‘Inception’, ‘Batman Begins’, ‘Godzilla’ and ‘The Last Samurai’. One of his most popular films is the 2005 film ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, a film which popularized geisha culture and traditional Japanese fashion.

    4. Hiroyuki Sanada (真田広之, born in 1960 in Tokyo)

    Sanada’s acting career started when he was just five years old, and he has been acting ever since. While he works mainly on Japanese films, recent Hollywood appearances include the movies ‘The Wolverine’, ‘Rush Hour 3’ and ‘The Last Samurai’, as well as the 2015 kids movie ‘Minions’ for which he voiced the character of Sumo Villian.

    5. Hiro Kanagawa (ヒロ・カナガワ, born in 1963 in Sapporo)

    Born in Japan, Kanagawa spent his childhood in the USA and Canada but returned to Japan in his teenage years. He has done a lot of work on popular TV Series such as ‘The 100’, ‘The Killing’ and ‘Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes’. Films that Kanagawa has appeared in include ‘Godzilla’, ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven’ and ‘Elektra’.

    6. Masi Oka (マシ・オカ, born in 1974 in Tokyo)

    Oka is probably best known for his roles in the popular TV series ‘Heroes’ and ‘Hawaii Five-O’, as well as his appearance in the film ‘Friends with Benefits’. However, if you delve a littler deeper into his acting history, Oka has made appearances in other well-known shows and films such as ‘Along Came Polly’, ‘Legally Blonde 2’, ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ and ‘Gilmore Girls’.

    7. Brian Tee (ブライアン・ティー, born in 1977 in Okinawa)

    Tee is half Japanese and half Korean and grew up in California. His most famous works of late include ‘The Wolverine’, ‘We Were Soldiers’, ‘Austin Powers in Goldmember’ and ‘Jurassic World’. His acting career started in 2000 when he was working mainly in television.

    So there you have it, next time you watch some of your top Hollywood movies, keep an eye on these amazing Japanese actors!

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