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


Let me clear one thing straight. We’re not talking about idols or celebrities here. We’re talking about young Japanese actors who have made some fantastic movies – and not just TV dramas. We are listing the EXACT OPPOSITE of this article:

If you’re a fan or even a casual observer of Japanese pop culture, you’ve probably noticed an appreciation for the pretty, somewhat feminine look, including in its boy bands. It’s confusing to some Americans, whose boy bands and young stars typically project masculinity or at least boyish charm. But just like Japan’s female pop idols, Japanese men are revered for their good looks. [ source ]

But we can’t deny that many of them are good looking. Some started their entertainment careers via auditions and joining variety shows too.

What separates the list from other hitlist boils down to acting talent. The kind of acting that win awards locally or in international film festivals. Getting directed by the most prolific Japanese filmmakers (read: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Tetsuya Nakashima, Hirokazu Koreeda and Takashi Miike). Oh yes, the age limit is 33, because, in Japan, even a 32-year-old actor can play a high school student and get away with it!

I could probably go on and on, but you simply HAVE to see the list to understand what I mean…


Age: 24

Spotlight Movies: Runway Beat, Drucker in the Dugout, and Sadako 3D

Why he’s on the Top 30: Even if his Kamen Rider days are over, Koji Seto proved he can do more than play a superhero. In Runway Beat, he showed his flair for fashion by playing a young aspiring designer who lives with his estranged father. He succeeded in showing his sensitive side while maintaining a fresh, bubbly personality on screen. He could move up the rankings if he can take on more challenging roles shortly, and play unique – even sinister – characters. Is he up to the challenge?



Age: 24

Spotlight Movies: Tsunagu, Life Back Then, We Can’t Change The World But, We Wanna Build a School in Cambodia, The King and I

Why he’s on the Top 30: Grabbing the lead role for the first time in Tsunagu, Tori Matsuzaka will finally have the chance to prove himself as an actor. While he was cast in a good number of high-profile films, he has yet to prove his mettle when it comes to carrying a movie by himself. He was excellent in Clone Baby as the sinister and mysterious Hiro. He also played an exciting role in the short film Good Coming. If he impressed moviegoers in the upcoming Tsunagu and The King and I, then expect a brilliant future in acting for Tori.



Age: 24

Spotlight Movies: Rookies, Paradise Kiss, Sadako 3D, Quran High School Host Club

Why he’s on the Top 30: You know exactly if an actor is leading man material. Yusuke Yamamoto is. With so many aspiring and established young actors are competing for attention in Hana Kimi, Yusuke managed to hold his own – he brought his signature charm and sense of humor while stealing scenes from his contemporaries. Yamamoto did the same when he played second lead to Keiko Kitagawa and Osamu Mukai in Paradise Kiss. Just like Tori Matsuzaka, all he needs is a leading role in a movie all his own to move up the rankings.



Age: 24

Spotlight Movies: Crime or Punishment!?, Softboy, The Cowards who Looked to the Sky

Why he’s on the Top 30: While his older brother Eita is way up in the rankings, Kento Nagayama is slowly making his way up himself. His upcoming role in Yuki Tanada’s The Cowards Who Looked To The Sky, where he plays lover to a more senior married woman is one to watch out for. Getting noticed in Softboy is already an indication of what’s to come. He’s one of the younger actors to generate excitement in the Japanese movie scene.



Age: 26

Spotlight Movies: Love Exposure, Himizu, Signal

Why he’s on the Top 30: Can one movie make a difference? In the case of Takahiro it did. In Sion Sono’s 237-minute masterpiece, Love Exposure, Takahiro plays a naive 17-year old student with a complicated relationship with his father (who happens to become a Priest). The movie which explores the issues of religion and sex is an acting showcase for Nishijima who went about wearing women’s clothes and doing martial arts and many other antics. In the upcoming Signal, we’ll get to see more of him, and hopefully be the factor for future ranking level up. 



Age: 23

Spotlight Movies: High School Debut, The Wings of the Kirin, Threads of Destiny

Why he’s on the Top 30: While he played supporting roles to the likes of YamaPi, Shun Oguri, and Masaki Okada, Junpei Mizobata proved that he could also take on the lead role and even win an award for his superb acting. In Akai Ito (Threads of Destiny), he was the lovestruck Atsushi Nishino, the role that gave him the Rookie of the Year award at Japan’s equivalent to the Oscars. 



Age: 23

Spotlight Movies: Samurai X (the movie), Beck

Why he’s on the Top 30: Graduating from playing superhero roles just like Koji Seto, Takeru Sato showed a certain quirkiness in the acting department. This appeal is quite evident in Beck, where he played the band’s singer. While no one can hear his voice, he succeeded in stamping his mystique and made the movie even more exciting to watch. The buzz can’t get any louder when Rurouni Kenshin hits the screen in August. Playing Kenshin Himura in the adaptation of the popular Samurai X, Takeru will bring the legendary samurai assassin to the big screen while romancing Emi Takei on the side.



Age: 26

Spotlight Movies: Arakawa Under the Bridge, Parade, Dive!

Why he’s on the Top 30: Playing a gay role, an aspiring diver, a scholar and a rebel is the range of Kento Hayashi. With five high-profile films in 2012, he is one of the busiest young actors working today. He’s part of Takashi Miike’s Lesson of the Evil and also Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s Blazing Famiglia, both roles that may further strengthen his hold as an actor to reckon with.



Age: 31

Spotlight Movies: Kujira: Gokudo no Shokutaku, Elevator Trap, Space Battleship Yamato, Ace Attorney, For Love’s Sake and Thirteen Assassins.

Why he’s on the Top 30: His acting resume includes some of the most notable supporting roles for the past six years and some leading roles that redeemed the market value of the movie itself (think of Boys Love, with its despicable ending, made amenable enough by Saito’s inspired performance). Playing rival Lawyer of Hiroki Nariyima in Ace Attorney is one of the latest roles for Saito. At 31, he still exudes that youthful glow. With a body to die for and a fashion style, only few can match.


Age: 28

Spotlight Movies: Beck, Tokyo Dogs

Why he’s on the Top 30: If he’s active in the movies, he’ll be way up in the rankings. Unfortunately, Hiro can only boast of 2 feature films, one of which is a band that struggled to gain their much-deserved audience. I have this pre-conceived notion that he can’t act. The actor looks so cool and so fashionable, so how can this already perfect guy be good in acting too? But he was convincing in Beck – as the aspiring, sometimes arrogant musician who wanted to prove to the music world that his band is the better group. As the leader of Beck, he was charismatic, yet vulnerable and insecure at the same time. He was able to play the role with a certain complexity and came out the winner. [ read more ]

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Get to know the 20 other actors on the list!

Top 10 | Top 20


Are you fans of the above young actors? Who among them is your favorite? What are some of the movies above you have seen already? Let us know what you think!


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