30 Hottest Japanese Young Actors- 2012 Rankings (Top 20)

What makes a good actor? Is it the ability to transform into another character but at the same time, introduce his qualities as a person? Or is it more important to be able to touch others with his sincere and honest acting? Is it important to play different roles or stick to one type – a superhero or a romantic leading man? Perhaps it’s a combination of these qualities? Heck, why do we have to make this difficult? 

In Part 2 of our 30 Hottest Japanese Actors, we’re into the top 20 territories. These guys are already known in the biz and have worked with some of the best filmmakers today and made some fantastic films that both fans and critics enjoyed. However, fangirls may be surprised with the rankings – why is my idol ranked lower than someone who is known as a supporting actor? That’s actually where the answer lies – we’re listing actors, not stars, and that’s a world of difference.

The top 20 right after the jump!


Age: 28

Spotlight Movies: Hanamizuki, We Where There Parts 1 and 2

Why he’s on the top 20: For someone who entered the entertainment business in 1998, it’s about time that Toma Ikuta got his much-needed recognition in acting. Although he only made feature films in 2010 (Ningen Shikkaku), his award as Best Newcomer for Hanamizuki is long overdue.


kamenashi kazuya

Age: 25

Spotlight Movies: Gokusen, Ore Ore

Why he’s on the Top 20: Kame’s ranking will go up to the roof once Ore, Ore is released. This highly anticipated movie is about a young man named Nagano Hitoshi who pretends to be other individuals. In the course of the film, he will cover 25 characters, from big breast to afro, tattoos all over the body, career woman, high school student. The director of the movie, Satoshi Miki, remarked:

“My first impression of Kamenashi was that he has a very high ability to grasp the situation and atmosphere. His analysis of the script and ability to understand what is being expected from him; as well as his cleverness in being able to deliver to meet those expectations, he has all these capabilities. As the production process carries on, I am starting to think that there is no one else who can handle this incomprehensible role except Kamenashi.”



Age: 20

Spotlight Movies: Himizu, Lesson of the Evil, A Liar and a Broken Girl

Why he’s on the top 20: At the age of 20, he has achieved more than some of the more established young actors on this list. With more than 20 movies to his credit, Shota Sometani is already a ‘veteran’ of sorts. Grabbing the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor at the 68th Venice Film Festival is his biggest accolades so far.


jun matsumoto

Age: 29

Spotlight Movies: Boys over Flowers (Hana Yori Dango), Yellow Tears, The Last Princess, My Sister, My Love

Why he’s on the Top 20: Who can forget Matsumoto in Hana Yori Dango as the filthy rich leader of F4? I can totally understand if you think Lee Min Ho is ‘better’ than Matsumoto but then again, playing the original has its advantages. While I admire the Korean actor, Matsumoto displayed more finesse in playing the role – it was his vulnerability mixed with his naughty and charming nature that made his performance memorable.



Age: 30

Spotlight Movies: Paradise Kiss, Change in Cambodia, Hamizuki, Beck

Why he’s on the top 20: He has figured in a good number of romantic movies and also provided supporting roles to his more familiar contemporaries, but Osamu Mukai is also an actor with a wide acting range. He was incredible in Hanamizuki as the idealistic photojournalist who was killed in action. He also made a lot of fangirls excited in Beck and Paradise Kiss. In We Can’t Change The World But, We Wanna Build a School in Cambodia he was the idealistic youth who inspired his friends and gave hope to kids in Cambodia. With three features films coming up, he continues to improve his acting craft and remains one of the most exciting actors in Japan. His ranking is expected to level up with three high-profile films (Yellow Elephant, I Have To Buy New Shows, Girls For Keeps) about to be shown.



Age: 28

Spotlight Movies: A Boy and His Samurai

Why he’s on the top 20: The fact that he only made two films (one of which is A Boy and His Samurai) is an indication of his superb acting skills. Says EFilmCritic:

Ryo Nishikido does the stranger in a strange land thing well, making a smooth transition from blustery confusion to odd adaptation. Nishikido never confuses “inexperienced” with “stupid,” which makes both his frustration and success more palpable and amusing and has the occasional great deadpan reminder that, no matter how much he’s adapted, he’s still a samurai. He plays things rather straight during some of the most broadly-comedic scenes, allowing Nakamura to milk humor from both the incongruity of an Edo-era samurai in the middle of a pastry-baking competition and from the frequent absurdity of the competition itself. [ source ]



Age: 23

Spotlight Movies: Villain, Confessions, I Give My First Love to You, Matataki, Life Back Then

Why he’s on the top 20: I want to kick his butt in Villain (Akunin) for playing such a cruel and wicked character capable of abusing women and senior citizens. In I Give My first Love to you, I want to sympathize with him. At the age of 23, we have yet to see the full range of Mr. Okada’s acting but from what we have already seen, is more than enough to put him at #14.



Age: 27

Spotlight Movies: Ikigami, A Crowd of Three, Liar’s Game, Hard Romanticker, Boys over Flowers

Why he’s on the top 20: What is there to say about Shota Matsuda? Well, he just happens to be one of the best looking Japanese actors and his personal website kick ass. But one movie remains unforgettable. Says the reviewer at the New York Asian Film Festival about Hard Romanticker:

Shota, sporting the same name and peroxide-blond hairstyle as the director, was born to play the fictional Gu: an old-style leading man with spit, snap, and vim (like his legendary father, Yusaku, who was half-Korean). He hides all traces of tenderness behind the cool, marble mask of his lean-and-mean, bad-boy good looks and holds the whole film tightly together… [ source ]

Some actors need to train and educate themselves to become great actors, while some are born to act. Shota Matsuda belongs to the latter.



Age: 25

Spotlight Movies: Into the White Night, A Crowd of Three, Bandage, Snakes and Earrings, Fish Story, The Egoist

Why he’s on the top 20: You can describe some actors as handsome or gorgeous, but they might need some nice clothes and fancy hairstyle to do the trick. Kengo Kora just needs to show up, and you’ll know what it means to say ‘that guy is beautiful!’. If you look at his acting resume, you will no longer wonder why he’s ranked #12 – In Snakes and Earrings, he played the pathetic Ama who was head over heels with the doomed Rui (Yuriko Yoshitaka). In A Crowd of Three, Kora played a supporting role to Shota Matsuda but held his own. But it was in Bandage that he showed his extraordinary mystique – with the long hair and the silence and the stare!



Age: 27

Spotlight Movies: Kurosagi, Tomorrow’s Joe

Why he’s on the top 20: He represents the best in Japanese male celebrities – not because of his looks but because of his reputation for going the distance. You can pick up any good looking guy and turn him into an ‘actor, ‘ but his novelty will run out. In Yamapi’s case, he just gets better and better. In Tomorrow’s Joe, Yamapi took on the challenge to play a boxer out to prove himself that he’s the best. It was an incredible performance. Says a critic:

The choice of Yamashita, one of the more recognizable idols from Japan, is probably crucial to the movie. He sparks enough conversation and curiosity about the movie among crowds which are not that familiar or akin to the manga. Contrary to the belief that porcelain faced idols simply can’t act; Yamashita might have just set a new standard. He has set up the character Joe well, and displayed great emotional depth and left immense visual impact on subsequent emotional scenes. [ source ]

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Get to know the 20 other actors on the list!

Top 10Top 30


Who among the actors on the list are your favorites? Let us know what you think!


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