It is no secret that the Japanese entertainment industry these days, when viewed through the eyes of a foreigner, places a lot of importance on youth among its artists. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have a place for veterans in the industry, nor does it mean that having youth and good looks is enough to earn a spot on the top. There is still a requirement for talent, and nowhere is it more apparent than these 10 hot young talented Japanese actors and their works you shouldn’t miss:
#1- Kento Yamazaki
Like many of his peers, Kento Yamazaki started out as a model, after being scouted and recruited during his third year of junior high school. He first debuted as an actor in 2010, via the TV Asahi drama Atami no Sousakan.
Based on the same-titled song by rock band Galileo Galilei, Control Tower follows a loner 15-year-old boy named Kakeru (Yamazaki) who is trying to find out his place in the world. Through an accidental meeting with transfer student Mizuho (played by Ai Hashimoto), they find out that their common love of music means that they don’t need to be alone in the world.
Kento Yamazaki stands out in the film because despite being a newcomer and not a singer by profession, he manages to carry entire scenes with no dialogue, relying only on his expressive eyes and a voice that is strained, raw, and full of emotions.
The Wings of the Kirin
This is a drama/mystery film that centers around a man’s body found under the statue of a giraffe with wings in the Nihombashi area of Tokyo. The main suspect gets into a car accident and falls into a coma while trying to run away, leaving his lover to be the only one to prove his innocence. Meanwhile, new information is revealed about the victim – something that not even his family is aware of.
In the film, Kento Yamazaki manages to stand out despite not being one of the main characters, an impressive feat considering that he is sharing screen real estate with industry veterans like Hiroshi Abe, Rena Tanaka, Kiichi Nakai.
#2- Haruma Miura
Haruma Miura is a Japanese actor and singer who originally debuted as part of the J-pop group Brash Brats. He first gained popularity outside of the Brash Brats when he was cast in Gokusen 3, followed by a role in the drama film Koizora. His first lead role came via the Bloody Monday drama series, which is based on the hit manga of the same name.
Kimi ni Todoke
An adaptation of a romance manga, Kimi ni Todoke focuses on the developing relationship between two unlikely friends: Sawako Kuronuma, who is constantly teased and bullied because her name sounds similar to “Sadako” from the Ring, and Shota Kazehaya, who is outgoing and very popular in school, particularly with the girls due to his good looks.
Haruma plays Kazehaya, and he stands out on the film due to his good looks and natural charm, which translate well to the screen and made Shota Kazehaya likeable and charming instead of looking like a pretty boy cardboard cut out.
Catch a Wave
A coming of age film that follows three high school friends as they spend their summer at a vacation house in Shonan, where they meet an eccentric owner of a surf shop and a beautiful local surfer girl. Over the course of the summer, the three boys learn how to surf, stand up against bullies, and fall in love.
In the film, Haruma plays the 16 year old boy Taiyo, who falls in love with the local surfer girl Julia. This is one of his earlier films and Haruma really looks young and frail, especially when compared to some of the other male actors in the film. But it works out to his advantage as it made him look believable as a young teenager who is only starting to experience life outside of the comforts of home. He also displays remarkable athleticism in the surfing parts of the film.
#3- Kento Nagayama
Kento first started his acting career in 2008, via the film Cheer Cheer Cheer! and the TV series Pazuru, where he attracted the public’s attention as regular cast member Tsukamoto Yoshio. He is unfairly criticized as only becoming famous for being the little brother of actor Eita Nagayama, but he has since released a body of work that proves his own worth as an artist, including high profile properties such as the live action Ranma TV movie and Crows Explode.
The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky
The film tells the story of a married woman, Anzu, who attended an event for anime fans, where she meets the young Takumi and develop an affair with him at her own home. The problem starts when Anzu’s husband starts suspecting his wife of adultery, which is made worse by a sex video of Anzu and Takumi being uploaded to the Internet.
Kento Nagayama played the role of Takumi effectively, even though the role is very challenging, as it requires him to pull off the naïve, lovelorn youth role while also taking on sensitive scenes.
Another installment in the series of films about the high school delinquents of Suzuran High School, who fight each other and the students of rival schools in order to become the best.
Kento Nagayama plays biker Fujiwara Hajime, who is not the main character but still had a substantial part. He stands out among the cast because he’s one of the few who had a drastic physical transformation for the part. Unlike the rest of the cast members who still looked like pretty boys even when unkempt, Kento’s Hajime is unattractive and physically imposing. The fight scenes also show that he can handle himself well in a physically demanding role.
#4- Sosuke Ikematsu
Sosuke Ikematsu started out early, landing his first film role at the age of 13 in the Hollywood film The Last Samurai. He has since gone on to star in numerous feature length films locally and overseas, along with various TV dramas.
The Last Samurai
The Last Samurai is a war film that follows a formerly retired officer of the United States 7th Cavalry Regiment, who got into contact with samurai warriors still feeling the effects of the Meiji Restoration in 19th Century Japan.
In the film, the young Sosuke Ikematsu stood out as Higen, who is the young nephew of samurai leader Katsumoto and one of the few Japanese who readily accepted the gaijin Nathan Algren, played by Tom Cruise. Despite his young age and his inexperience (it is his first film,) Sosuke managed to hang with his American and Japanese co-stars.
Love’s Whirlpool is about a secret sex club in an unspecified high rise residential building somewhere in Roppongi, where strangers can pay to enter and satiate their desires from 12 AM midnight until 5 AM in the morning without any consequences afterwards, provided that they follow simple rules that include respecting each other’s desires. The film starts with four anonymous men and four anonymous women from all walks of life meeting each other in the club. Throughout the course of the film, they get to learn deeper things about each other.
Sosuke Ikematsu plays one of the main characters in the film – an unnamed NEET (a young person who is Not in Education, Employment, or Training) who starts to fall for one of the participants. He naturally stood out among the other male cast members, because he’s the youngest and the only attractive one, but he also carried himself well in the emotional and sexually charged scenes.
#5- Kento Hayashi
Kento Hayashi is an actor from Ootsu, Shiga prefecture and under Stardust Promotion. He got his break when he was scouted at Shibuya Station in 2005, during a school trip and given a role in Yojiro Takita’s film “The Battery.”
Four young people share a 2-bedroom apartment in a corner of Tokyo that’s currently reeling from a series of violent crimes. When the 18-year old male prostitute Satoru joins them under the premise of being drunkenly invited by one of the tenants, they find their lives changed drastically.
In Parade, Kento plays the stranger Satoru. The role has his hair being dyed blonde and relying on body language and facial expressions due to his limited lines – a necessity for a character that needs to be mysterious and morally ambiguous.
A sports drama about three male diving athletes who have to carry an entire team and work together, despite coming from varying backgrounds and possessing different characteristics that put them at odds with each other.
In Dive!, Kento Hayashi plays the timid Tomoki Sakai, who is considered as the weakest link of the trio due to his lack of innate talent nor any pedigree related to the sport. Yet he proves that he can succeed through pure hard work and determination.
#6- Masataka Kubota
An actor from Kanagawa prefecture, Masataka Kubota is under Stardust Promotions and has worked alongside many of the actors in this list, owing to a versatility that allows him to bounce between protagonist and antagonist roles effectively.
Set in 1840s Japan, 13 Assassins follows the titular band of Samurais as they were discreetly hired by the Shogunate’s Justice Minister in order to kill the Shogun’s sociopathic and corrupt half-brother, Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu of Akashi.
Masataka Kubota plays Ogura Shoujiro, an inexperienced but determined young samurai disciple who tags along with his master. Ogura shows off his intense acting skill and athleticism as he takes part in various “one against many” fight scenes peppered throughout the film.
Kodai Shôjo Dogu-chan
Kodai Shôjo Dogu-chan is an action comedy tokusatsu series that centers on the socially inept teenager Makoto Sugihara, who accidentally stumbles upon a magical breastplate buried in the woods. Upon touching the breastplate, he awakens a girl named Dogu-Chan – a hyperactive demon hunter from the Jomon period with large breasts. They soon develop an uneasy partnership as Dogu-Chan fights demons while Makoto helps her acclimate to modern life.
As Makoto Sugihara, Masataka Kubota naturally stands out as he is one of the few male casts in the series (and its sequel.) Additionally, the role proves his acting range as he manages an effective turn in a comedic bumbling role, which is a far cry from the serious and dramatic roles under his resume.
The older brother of Kento Nagayama, Eita is a veteran of the Japanese entertainment industry and has appeared in numerous TV dramas and films, including the TV series adaptations of the Water Boys film.
Water Boys (TV Drama)
The TV Drama picks up two years after the end of the Water Boys movie. The story follows the boys of Tadano High School, who are all still in the club and trying to master the art of synchronized swimming.
Eita plays the veteran Masatoshi Tanaka effectively in the series, portraying a conflicted student who can’t get into medical school and blaming all the time he spent on synchronized swimming in the original film. The role required commitment from Eita, because he had to learn synchronized swimming.
Harakiri: Death of a Samurai
The film follows a poverty-stricken samurai who goes after a feudal lord after discovering the injustice that befell his ronin son-in-law.
Eita’s character, Motome Chijiiwa, dies at the early parts of the film but he still made a big impact because his scenes are the catalyst for the entire story. Despite not really having any impressive swordfighting scenes, Eita still managed to show his acting ability by portraying a person that was first mistaken for a charlatan who got what he deserved (playing the part of a person committing seppuku with a dull bamboo sword is impressive), who is eventually revealed to be a loving father willing to sacrifice everything – even his honor as a samurai - in order to provide for his family.
#8- Ryuhei Matsuda
Born to a Japanese and partial Korean ancestry, actor Ryuhei Matsuda started acting at the age of 15, alongside industry A-listers Takeshi Kitano and Tadanobu Asano in the samurai drama film Taboo, earning him various awards. Since then, he has appeared in a wide variety of roles in both the big and small screens.
Gohatto follows a handsome young boy named Kano Sozaburo, who joined the elite samurai militia group Shinsengumi. Despite being a gifted swordsman, Kano’s beauty causes a rift among the group as many of the militia’s students and superiors developed a sexual attraction to him and started fighting over his affections.
Despite being his first big screen project, Ryuhei Matsuda showed his talent and carried his scenes, including a disturbing one where he was sexually assaulted by a senior samurai. Matsuda in the film showed surprising range, with Kano’s portrayals ranging from innocent, naïve, manipulative, and cold-blooded during different parts of the story. He also showed impressive aptitude for action scenes – the sword fights in the movie did not rely on special effects or clever camera tricks, but his scenes looked realistic and brutal.
Based on the manga of the same name, Nana follows two girls both named Nana, who live completely different lives – one is an aspiring punk rock musician and the other a normal girl who wants to live a new life with her partner.
Matsuda plays Ren Honjo, who is a conflicted musician with a deep connection with one of the Nanas. Matsuda pulls off the look completely, and despite having an androgynous look that would fit in better in a jpop boyband, still looked believable as a punk rock bassist.
#9- Yosuke Kubozuka
Yosuke Kubozuka first started as a model for TV commercials and magazines, before debuting as an actor in the 1995 TV crime drama Kindaichi Case Files. It was followed in 1998 with the TV series GTO and a lead role in 2000’s Ikebukuro West Gate Park.
The Monsters Club
A fictionalized take on the Unabomber story, told from the point of view of the bomber and containing fantasy elements, such as the bomber Ryoichi being haunted by a monster inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s Totoro, whose aim is to drag him back to civilization and get him to conform to society.
Based on the manga of the same name, Ping Pong is a 2002 film that follows two high school table tennis players as they compete across various tournaments. The film centers on the two friends, their two mentors, and three other players that they encounter throughout the story.
Yosuke plays one of the lead characters, Peco, who is charismatic and has a true passion for table tennis. The role required the usual charm, cockiness, and good looks from the actor, but one thing that made him stand out is that he really learned how to play table tennis on a competitive level instead of relying on special effects or stunt doubles.
#10- Shun Oguri
Born to a family of entertainers, including a theater director father and an actor brother, Shun Oguri naturally gravitated towards acting, starting out at the tender age of 12. His debut role was in the TV drama adaptation of Great Teacher Onizuka, playing the role of the bullied and abused child. He has since moved on to bigger roles, including internationally renowned ones such as in Gokusen, Hana Yori Dango, Detective Conan, and several of the Crows movie prequels.
A TV drama that follows elite New York cop Takakura, who became a law enforcer due to witnessing his father’s murder at a young age and pledging to catch the killer himself. Due to a big case involving a drug syndicate, Takakura was sent to Tokyo in order to conduct a joint investigation with Japanese police. While in Tokyo, he is partnered with the hotblooded detective Maruo Kudo.
Shun Oguri shines in his role as the calm, collected, and disciplined Takakura, especially since he plays off so well with Hiro Mizushima’s Kudo, which is the exact opposite-ill-tempered, brawl-happy, and girl-crazy.
Crows Zero Franchise
The Crows Zero franchise is a prequel and spin-off for the Crows series of manga, about the Suzuran All-Boys High School and its population of violent juvenile delinquents, who always pick fights with rival schools and each other with the goal of being the top fighter.
Many foreign fans most likely got introduced to Shun Oguri via his role in Crows Zero as Takiya Genji, the newly transferred high school senior who managed to beat up an entire group of Yakuzas on his first day of school purely out of a case of mistaken identity, before using his newfound reputation to build one of the strongest factions in Suzuran. Oguri owns the role, showing edgy rebellious charm and raw physicality that makes the fight scenes look exciting, despite being ridiculously exaggerated and overdramatized.
Ino on June 16, 2018:
Ryuhei Matsuda is a cut above the rest. Dont get me wrong. All these actors are fine ones, but Matsuda, a method actors has tackled real risque movies- a through and through thespian..
Valen kei on June 06, 2018:
Takeru satoh, Jun Shisho, Yuki Furukawa, Fukushi Sota...... so many more are missing.... Takeru is a must plese add him as soon as possble....
Cily on February 27, 2018:
I think you got incorrect picture for Sosuke Ikematsu
Isn't that kubota's picture?
yunho's admirer on January 02, 2018:
Haruma Miura is a must~
He can deliver complex emotions so well!
Dragon Warrior on December 16, 2017:
14DC on April 11, 2016:
Yes, they're all great actors and I love your recommended dramas/movies. But the picture of Sosuke Ikematsu is wrong, that's Masataka Kubota, the same as #6 actor.
eternisemoi on May 14, 2015:
I'm not very familiar with Japanese dramas or movies, so a lot of recommended works interested me. Some I wanna see are Control Tower, Crows Explode, and Love's Whirpool. A little random but that pic of Kento Hayashi reminded me a little of Beast's Yoseob.