At the age of 26, Sakaguchi Kentaro - 坂口健太郎 - is a successful male model, and is now being regarded as a potential leading dramatic actor. Think of Ore Monogatari!!, Heroine Shikkaku, Kounodori, and Juhan Shuttai!. No one can say that Sakaguchi did not impress in all of these roles!

Sakaguchi Kentaro profile cover

I have often played the most popular boy in school, and that has surprised me since I don't feel like I am the type one would call good-looking. (laughing), so I have to make myself 100 times cooler than I think I am. [source]

That is probably the understatement of the year!

As of May 2017, he is officially known as Arata Mackenyu - not 'Chiba' or 'Maeda' as he was previously called by the Japanese media. He also announced that Top Coat will handle all his acting commitments. If previous performances in Chihayafuru, WOWOW'S Yume wo Ataeru (with Komatsu Nana), and Aogeba Toutoshi are any indication of his competence and commitment to his acting career, then we're all in for an adventure!

Arata Mackenyu - profiler

While it seems that the locals (including his co-stars in TBS drama Aogeba Toutoshi: Murakami Nijiro, Taiga, and Kitamura Takumi) were fascinated with his command of the English language, and amused with his Beverly Hills high school education, any 'special treatment' - if any - ends there. [see interview excerpts in this video.]

Murakami Nijiro won the Best New Actor award (for Distraction Babies) from the prestigious Kinema Junpo, on their 90th award season, just as Yagira Yuya won Best Actor for the same movie. In retrospect, Yagira was 14 when he won Best Actor (for Koreeda's Nobody Knows) at Cannes and exactly 10 years later Murakami - at 16 - debuts via Naomi Kawase's Still The Water.

Nijiro Murakami - profile photo

Why the comparison? They play brothers in Mariko Tetsuya's Distraction Babies and there is already some indication that the younger Nijiro may follow in Yagira's footsteps as one of Japan's top dramatic actors. 

What would compel Japanese entertainment site The TV to publish an 18-episode (and counting) Kitamura Takumi (北村匠海) special coverage other than to promote the popular DISH// boy band leader? With three major movie projects in 2017, Kitamura is already poised to take his place as one of Japan's rising stars.

Kitamura Takumi

Aside from playing the narrator-friend of the ill-fated Sakura (Hamabe Minami) in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, the 19-year old actor is also the lead star in yet another dramatic film Love and Lies. Looking back, it was in 2013 when Kitamura was cast to play the unassuming, yet ambitious student leader in TV Tokyo and Kadokawa Pictures' Suzuki Sensei.

We're coming up with the 2017 edition of the hottest Japanese actors and actresses list, but how about those who are yet to be celebrated by fans and the public? What makes them the next big stars that will take the leading roles in upcoming live-action movies and dramas? 

Up and coming Japanese Actors - Top 20

From Watanabe Ken, Asano Tadanobu, Odagiri Joe to Tsumabuki Satoshi, Oguri Shun, Eita and Kora Kengo, Japan's leading men, and box office draws has run in a full circle. Now we have Sato Takeru, with Yamazaki Kento, Yamada Ryosuke, and Fukushi Sota taking on leading roles. 

... and here they are! 

It took more than two years before Takasugi Mahiro (高杉真宙) resumes movie acting in Nakagawa Taishi's starrer Re: LIFE. His 2014 movies, Bon Lin and The World of Kanako gave movie fans plenty to celebrate  - here we have an actor equally capable of playing horrible and kind-hearted characters -  so why it took him so long to play more movie roles? 

Takasugi Mahiro 高杉 真宙 - Japanese actor

Well, obviously, he's busy doing TV drama - Ghostwriter (as Nakatani Miki's rebellious son) and Omotesando Koukou Gasshoubu! (as the super self-doubting Miyazaki Yu) are two of his best works. 

While reading his 4-page interview at Elle Japan, I got the impression that the actor is living a simple life. Born and raised in Kyoto, Takasugi will turn 20 on July 4th.