Hayao Miyazaki, Naruto and Doraemon among list of most famous Japanese people

A study by the Japan Press Research Institute to find the most recognised Japanese people alive and dead has revealed some surprising results.

In a poll across six different countries: the UK, the USA, France, China, South Korea and Thailand, among the people recognised include Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyzazaki, manga author Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball), and several fictional characters including Naruto, Pokemon and Doraemon.

None of these people appeared in the UK’s top ten list of the most famous Japanese people. Top of the UK poll was Emperor Hirohito, who ruled Japan during the Second World War; followed by Yoko Ono, the artist and widow of John Lennon; and current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. However, arguably Abe should be second on the list as the person who came fourth was the vague answer of “The Prime Minister”, followed by “The Emperor” in fifth. Making up the rest of the list were former Manchester United footballer Shinji Kagawa; Japanese-born UK-based novelist Kazuo Ishiguro; artist Hokusai Katsushika; author Haruki Murakami; and creator of the Metal Gear video games Hideo Kojima.

Other names recognised by people surveyed included the film director Akira Kurosawa, tennis player Kei Nishikori, rock band X Japan, and two former porn stars.

Here are the results of the other five countries:


  1. Shinzo Abe
  2. Emperor Hirohito
  3. Ichiro (baseball player)
  4. Emperor Akihito
  5. Yoko Ono
  6. Isoroku Yamamoto (Admiral during WWII)
  7. Yasuo Fukuda (Prime Minister, 2007-08)
  8. Akira Kurosawa
  9. Hayao Miyazaki
  10. Hideki Tojo (General during WWII)


  1. Emperor Hirohito
  2. Shinzo Abe
  3. Naruto
  4. Hayao Miyazaki
  5. Yoko Ono
  6. The Emperor
  7. Akira Kurosawa
  8. Akira Toriyama
  9. Pikachu/Pokémon
  10. Kei Nishikori


  1. Shinzo Abe
  2. Junichiro Koizumi (Prime Minister, 2001-06)
  3. Hayao Miyazaki
  4. Haruki Murakami
  5. Momoe Yamaguchi (1970s actress and idol)
  6. Hideki Tojo
  7. Ken Takakura (actor, including lead in live-action Golgo 13)
  8. Isoroku Yamamoto
  9. Keigo Higashino (mystery novelist)
  10. Toyotomi Hideyoshi (16th century Shogun-substitute)

South Korea

  1. Shinzo Abe
  2. Toyotomi Hideyoshi
  3. Ito Hirobumi (Japan’s first Prime Minister, later Resident-General of Korea)
  4. Kakuei Tanaka (Prime Minister, 1972-74)
  5. Junichiro Koizumi
  6. Yasuhiro Nakasone (Prime Minister, 1982-87)
  7. The Emperor
  8. Haruki Murakami
  9. Tokugawa Ieyasu (Founder of the Shogunate)
  10. Mao Asada (Former figure skater)


  1. Shinzo Abe
  2. Doraemon
  3. The Emperor
  4. Emperor Akihito
  5. Maria Ozawa (Former porn star)
  6. Kobori (Character in Thai novel Khu Kam)
  7. X Japan
  8. Kyoko Fukuda (Actress and singer)
  9. Nobita Nobi (Character in Doraemon)
  10. Sora Aoi (Former porn star)

Ian Wolf

Ian works as an anime and manga critic for Anime UK News, and was also the manga critic for MyM Magazine. His debut book, CLAMPdown, about the manga collective CLAMP, is available now. Outside of anime, he is data specialist for the British Comedy Guide, is QI's most pedantic viewer, has written questions for both The Wall and Richard Osman's House of Games, and has been a contestant on Mastermind.

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