The Best Japanese Actresses of 2017 & 2018

Updated on December 14, 2017
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Ma-re is an enthusiast writer about Korean and Japanese culture.

Japanese actresses are known for their cute style. Their fresh, natural, and youthful look inspires us to remember our high school days. They can also act funny, innocent, and sweet. But among the wide pool of J-actors, some of them are remarkable for being the best among the rest. Some have already starred in many dramas and movies, while some are still starting to blossom. Most of them have received awards for their brilliant acting skills at their young age.

In this list, discover the famous, top-rated, most talented, and most popular Japanese actresses of 2017 and their upcoming movies, films, and dramas in 2018.

Kanna Hashimoto

One of the newest booming stars in Japanese entertainment is the 18-year old idol and actress, Kanna Hashimoto. Labeled as "beyond cute local idol", "beyond angelic idol", and "a talent appearing once in a millennium", she is also praised for her charming smile and natural beauty. Born on February 3, 1999 in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, she began her career as a member of a J-Pop girl group, Rev. from DVL. She also has an older twin brother and an older brother.

Movie and TV roles:

  • Assassination Classroom (2015, 2016) as Ritsu
  • Sailor Suit and Machine Gun: Graduation (2016) as Izumi Hoshi
  • MPD: Animal Unit (2017) as Keiko Usuki
  • Gintama (2017) as Kagura
  • Haruchika (2017) as Chika Homura
  • Psychic Kusuo (2017) as Kokomi Teruhashi
  • Final Cut (2018) as Wakaba Okawara

Mei Nagano

A lady with a sweet and sparkly smile is Mei Nagano, whose acting career is already defined at her young age of 18. Born on September 24, 1999 in Tokyo, Japan, Mei was already scouted during her third year elementary days in Tokyo. Her most notable role where she gained national attention is the romantic comedy film, "My Love Story!" as Rinko Yamato. Apart from acting, she is also an exclusive model for Japanese fashion magazines such as Seventeen and Ribon.

Filmography roles:

  • My Love Story! (2015) - Rinko Yamato
  • Love That Makes You Cry (2016) - Remi Funakawa
  • Koe Koi (2016) - Yuiko Yoshioka
  • Parks (2017) - Haru
  • Mixed Doubles (2017) - Airi Ogasawara
  • Hirunaka no Ryūsei (2017) - Suzume Yosano
  • Peach Girl (2017) - Sae Kashiwagi
  • Hanbun, Aoi (2018) - Suzume Nireno

Yuna Taira

A girl with the youthful, innocent, and sweet look is Yuna Taira, who debuted as an actress when she was in her sixth grade at elementary school. Yuna was born on November 12, 1998 in Kobe, Japan. Her older sister, Airi Taira, is also a famous actress. She also has a brother named Keisho Taira. As a child actress, Yuna appeared in many television dramas and films, but she gets her first lead role in the 2017 film, ReLIFE. Besides acting, Yuna proved her talent in singing as well. In 2012, she was in "Contact Girl Ju Ju Ju" from Oha Suta Super Live, and she released a CD.

Notable roles:

  • Yell For The Blue Sky / Aozora Yell (2016) - Akane Sawa
  • Kiseki: Sobito of That Day (2017) - Yui
  • Closest Love To Heaven / Kyo no Kira-kun (2017) - Mio Yahagi
  • The Dark Maidens (2017) - Mirei Nitani
  • Sagrada Reset / Sakurada Risetto Kohen (2017) - Sumire Soma
  • ReLIFE (2017) - Chizuru Hishiro
  • That Is Not a Child But a Minor (2017) - Karin Oriyama
  • Honey (2018) - Nao Kogure

Suzu Hirose

A prominent name in the Japanese media industry is the beautiful and talented Suzu Hirose. Known for being an elegant actress, she starred in numerous films and live-action adaptations. Her most popular role is playing Chihaya in the Chihayafuru trilogy. She was born on June 19, 1998 in Shizuoka, Japan, and she has an older sister, Alice Hirose, who is also an actress. Besides acting, she is also a popular model, both in fashion magazines, commercials and advertisements. She will play the lead roles in the 2018 NTV drama, "Anone", and 2019 NHK asadora, Natsuzora.

Most recognizable roles and upcoming dramas:

  • Our Little Sister (2015) - Suzu Asano
  • Chihayafuru: Kami no Ku (2016) - Chihaya Ayase
  • Chihayafuru: Shimo no Ku (2016) - Chihaya Ayase
  • Your Lie in April (2016) - Kaori Miyazono
  • My Teacher (2017) - Hibiki Shimada
  • Chihayafuru: Musubi (2018) - Chihaya Ayase
  • Anone (2018) - Subaru Tsujisawa
  • Natsuzora (2019) - Natsu Okuhara

Marie Iitoyo

A beautiful fashion model that starred not only in magazines but also on screens is Marie Iitoyo. Her simple look is an inspiration to many girls, and her cute smile leaves a lasting impression that she has a sweet personality. Born on January 5, 1998 in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, Marie became famous with her role in the 2016 youth romance movie, Mars. It was followed by another successful performance as Ninon Okamura in the 2017 "Kyo no Kira-kun" live-action movie. Despite her busy schedule, Marie will release her first photo book in 2018.

Film and drama roles:

  • Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (2015) - Chiriko Tsurumi ("Tsuruko”)
  • Mars (2016) - Kira Aso
  • A Girl & Three Sweethearts / Sukina Hito ga Iru Koto (2016) - Fuka Ninomiya
  • Papa Katsu (2017) - Anri Akama
  • Maji de Koukai Shitemasu (2017) - Marin Sakamoto
  • Kirawareru Yuuki (2017) - Michiko Kari
  • Kyo no Kira-kun (2017) - Ninon Okamura
  • Ankoku Joshi (2017) - Itsumi Shiraishi
  • The Crimes That Bind / When The Curtain of Prayer Descend (2018)

Ayami Nakajo

Tall, elegant, and stunningly beautiful in her own unique way is Japanese model and actress, Ayami Nakajo. Born on February 4, 1997, in Osaka, Japan, Ayami first auditioned in 2011 as a model for Seventeen, a popular female fashion magazine in Japan. In 2012, she participated as a model in Tokyo Girls Collection and made her acting debut in the television drama, Kuro no Jokyōshi, as Yuyaku Umehara. In 2016, she won the Best New Actress award for her role as Ichigo Kashimura in the film, Setoutsumi.

Movie and drama roles:

  • Summer Nude (2013) - Asami Ichise
  • Gekijōban Zero (2014) - Aya Tsukimori
  • She (2015) - Azusa Ogiwara
  • Setoutsumi (2016) - Ichigo Kashimura
  • Litchi Hikari Club (2016) - Kanon
  • Let's Go, Jets! (2017) - Ayano Tamaki
  • Anonymous Noise (2017) - Nino Arisugawa
  • 3D Kanojo: Real Girl (2018) - Iroha Igarashi

Ai Hashimoto

Ai Hashimoto has been one of the most favorite actresses of today, because of her original and one-of-a-kind beauty. She was born on January 12, 1996 in Kumamoto, and made her debut after winning the grand prize in the HUAHUA Audition in 2008. She starred to appear in the big screen through the 2012 film, The Kirishima Thing. In 2013, she took the lead role in the TV drama, Hard Nuts. Her serious and firm personality made her the best actress to play the roles of Sadako in Sadako 3D and Mei Misaki in Another.

Best roles:

  • Control Tower / Kanseitou (2011) - Mizuho
  • Sadako 3D (2012) - Sadako Yamamura
  • The Kirishima Thing (2012) - Kasumi Higashihara
  • Another (2012) - Mei Misaki
  • Amachan (2013) - Yui Adachi
  • Adult Drop (2014) - Ann Irie
  • Little Forest: Summer & Autumn (2014) - Ichiko
  • Wonderful World End (2015) - Shiori Hayano
  • Parks (2017) - Jun

Airi Matsui

No one can resist her sparkly smile that shines brightly like a radiant sun. She is Airi Matsui, a model and actress, whose lovely smile makes her perfectly beautiful on big and small screen. She was born on December 26, 1996 in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture. Before being an actress, Airi was a member of J-pop girl group, Sakura Gakuin. She starred in the 2015 novel-based film, "Tsuugaku Series Tsuugaku Densha" as Yuna, a shy girl who goes to school every day riding the train, together with Chiba Yudai as Haru. She is also an endorser for the popular Japanese chocolate brand, Ghana.

Filmography roles:

  • Commuting to School Series Commuter Tram (2015) - Yuna
  • Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (2015) - Naruko Anjo ("Anaru”)
  • Flying Colors/Biri Gyaru (2015) - Mika Honda
  • Aozora Yell (2016) - Himari Wakita
  • The King of Minami The Movie (2017) - Mizuki Tsurumaru
  • Otona Koukou (2017) - Sakura Himetani
  • Love Concierge (2017) - Mai Nakase
  • Three Dads (2017) - Hana Watanabe

Nana Komatsu

One of the most popular Japanese model and actress of today is Nana Komatsu, who is known for her decent beauty. Her fashion style is an inspiration not only to her fans but also to other actors. She was born on February 16, 1996 in Tokyo. Because of her irresistible charm and beauty, she appeared in several music videos from 2012-2016. Our multi-talented Nana is popular not only in Japan; she is also a globally renowned actress. In fact, she starred in the 2016 American film, Silence, as Monica.

Best movie and drama roles:

  • The World of Kanako (2014) - Kanako Fujishima
  • Bakuman (2015) - Miho Azuki
  • Kurosaki-kun no Iinari ni Nante Naranai (2016) - Yū Akahane
  • My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday (2016) - Emi Fukuju
  • Drowning Love (2016) - Natsume Mochizuki
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter I (2017) - Yukako Yamagishi
  • Thrill (2017) - Hitomi Nakano
  • Love is Like After the Rain (2018) - Akira Tachibana
  • Kids on the Slope (2018) - Ritsuko Mukae

Tao Tsuchiya

This list is not complete without the Japanese princess of films - the leading lady in almost all live-action adaptations and television dramas since 2015. She is Tao Tsuchiya, a talented model, actress, and dancer. Born on February 3, 1995, in Tokyo, she proved her extraordinary acting skills when she got the lead role out of 2020 women who auditioned in the NHK's 2015 Asadora, Mare, with Kento Yamazaki as her husband. They are reunited again in the 2015 movie, Orange. She also appeared in the 2014 blockbuster film, Rurouni Kenshin (with Takeru Sato) as Makimachi Misao. She is reunited with Sato in the 2017 dramatic film, 8-Nengoshi no Hanayome. Her most anticipated role of 2018 is playing the "dry ice" Shizuku Mizutani in Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, alongside Masaki Suda as Haru.

Best movie and drama roles:

  • Mare (2015) - Mare Tsumura
  • Orange (2015) - Naho Takamiya
  • Aozora Yell (2016) - Tsubasa Ono
  • P and JK (2017) - Kako Motoya
  • Tori Girl (2017) - Yukina Toriyama
  • Ani ni Aisaresugite Komatemasu / My Brother Loves Me Too Much (2017) - Setoka Tachibana
  • The 8-Year Engagement (2017) - Mai
  • Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun / My Little Monster (2018) - Shizuku Mizutani
  • Kasane (2018) - Nina Tanzawa and Kasane

Haruna Kawaguchi

Whether she's smiling or pouting, you can never resist her cuteness and charm. She is your favorite girl-next-door actress with a cool and cheerful vibes, and her name is Haruna Kawaguchi. She was born on February 10, 1995 in Goto, Nagasaki and an exclusive model of Japanese fashion magazine, Nicola, from 2007 to 2011. With her pleasing personality, she became an endorser to several Japanese products and companies, including Toyota (2012), Sony (2011), Bridgestone (2012), Pantene (2010), and Pocari Sweat (2009-2010). She is a versatile actress who can act cool, innocent, and cute at the same time.

Best film and drama roles:

  • Ouran High School Host Club (2011) - Haruhi Fujioka
  • GTO (2012) - Aizawa Miyabi
  • Madame Marmalade no Ijo na Nazo (2013) - Madame Marmalade
  • Husband’s Lover (2013) - Hoshimi Yamagishi
  • Bakumatsu Kokosei (2014) - Eri Morino
  • Sukitte Ii Na Yo / Say "I Love You" (2014) - Mei Tachibana
  • Detective versus Detectives (2015) - Kotoha Minemori
  • Creepy (2016) - Saki
  • Juken no Cinderella (2016) - Maki Endo
  • Bittersweet / Nigakute Amai (2016) as Maki Eda
  • Chef: Three Star School Lunch (2016) - Haruko Takayama
  • My Lover's Secret (2017) - Sawa Tachibana
  • Isshukan Friends / One Week Friends (2017) - Kaori Fujimiya

Emi Takei

She is one of the famous icons in the media industry during the past years, especially in commercials, films, and movies. She is Emi Takei, a beautiful model and actress who is best known for playing Kamiya Kaoru in Rurouni Kenshin. Born on December 25, 1993 in Nagoya, she originally debuted as a model in 2006 through Seventeen, an iconic Japanese fashion magazine. She also won the "Best Dresser Award" from The Men's Unity Fashion, being the youngest ever in history since 1972. In 2011, she debuted as a singer under Universal Japan, releasing the sweet, ballad single "Koisuru Kimochi". Later in 2017, she married EXILE's vocalist, Takahiro, and the couple are expecting a baby in 2018.

Best film and drama roles:

  • Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kimi ga Oshiete Kureta/You Taught Me All The Precious Things (2011) - Hikari Saeki
  • Asukō March! (2011) - Nao Yoshino
  • Kyō, Koi o Hajimemasu (2012) - Tsubaki Hibino
  • Rurouni Kenshin (2012, 2014) - Kamiya Kaoru
  • Clover (2014) - Saya Suzuki
  • Age Harassment (2015) - Emiri Yoshii
  • Yo-Kai Watch the Movie: Sora Tobu Kujira to Daburu Sekai no Daiboken da Nyan (2016)
  • Terra Formars (2016) - Nanao Akita
  • Chushingura: A 48th Loyal Retainer in Love (2016-2017) - Kiyo
  • May I Blackmail You? (2017) - Mio Kanesaka
  • The Noble Detective (2017) - Aika Takatoku
  • Black Leather Notebook (2017) - Motoko Haraguchi

Fumi Nikaido

Labeled by Variety magazine as an "International Star You Should Know" and an "International Rising Star" by New York Asian Film Festival, Fumi Nikaido is one of the best actresses in Japan today. She is not your typical actress who maintains her role in every single film, but her versatile talent in acting brought her into different swaying characters from angsty gangster into a sweet lolita girl. Fumi was born on September 21, 1994 in Okinawa. She was a model in the magazine, Nicola, before making her debut on-screen in 2009. She received an international Best Actress Award in the film Himizu, at the 68th Venice International Film Festival in 2011.

Best roles:

  • Himizu (2011) - Keiko Chazawa
  • Jigoku de Naze Warui? / Why Don't You Play in Hell? (2013) - Michico
  • Shijukunichi no Recipe / Mourning Recipe (2013) - Imo
  • My Man (2014) - Hana Kusarino
  • Wolf Girl and Black Prince (2016) - Erika Shinohara
  • Somebody (2016) - Rika
  • Inuyashiki (2018) - Shion Watanabe
  • River's Edge (2018) - Haruna Wakakusa

Kasumi Arimura

The sweet and lovely-looking girl who maintains an innocent image is Kasumi Arimura, who is one of the all-time favorite actresses in Japan. She was born on February 13, 1993 in Itami and has an older sister named Airi Arimura. She is recognized as one of the most talented actresses who can act naturally on cam. Hiyokko producer Hiroshi Kashi described her as “an actress with the ability to play different types of characters.”

Best roles:

  • Strobe Edge (2015) - Ninako Kinoshita
  • Flying Colors / Biri Gyaru (2015) - Sayaka Kudo
  • Erased / Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (2016) - Airi Katagiri
  • Love That Makes You Cry / Itsuka Kono Koi wo Omoidashite Kitto Naite Shimau (2016) - Oto Sugihara
  • March Goes out Like a Lamb / San gatsu no Lion Kohen (2017) - Kyoko Koda
  • Hiyokko (2017) - Mineko Yatabe
  • Sekigahara (2017) - Hatsume
  • Kazoku Iro (2018) - Akira Okuzono

Tsubasa Honda

Tsubasa Honda is one of the best Japanese actresses globally. Born on June 27, 1992 in Tokyo, Tsubasa's beauty caught attention during her teenage days, and seven different people scouted her on the same day. She debuted as a model for Seventeen magazine, and is recognized today as one of the finest Japanese models. In 2013, she starred in the time-travelling film, Enoshima Prism, with Sota Fukushi, and later the two reunited in the 2015 drama Koinaka. Apart from movies and dramas, she also appeared as a host in on the late-night music show "Music Dragon" and radio show "School of Lock!" She is also a favorite endorser to many big companies.

Best roles:

  • GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka (2012-2013) - Urumi Kanzaki
  • Enoshima Prism (2013) - Michiru Ando
  • It All Began When I Met You / Subete wa Kimi ni Aeta kara (2013) - Natsumi
  • Blue Spring Ride / Ao Haru Ride (2014) - Futaba Yoshioka
  • Koinaka (2015) - Akari Serizawa
  • Swimming in the Dark / Wanitokagegisu (2017) - Azusa Hada
  • Fullmetal Alchemist / Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (2017) - Winry Rockbell
  • Tonight, At The Movies / Konya, Romance Gekijo de (2018) - Toko Naruse

Ayame Gouriki

Ayame Gouriki is one of the most-seen faces on television and magazine. With her short hair and cute eyes, she'll definitely catch the hearts of the viewers. Ayame was born on August 27, 1992 in Yokohama. She is a popular model, and her unique, short hair that fits perfectly on her small face is her signature style. She appeared in many drama series from 2008 to present. Apart from TV dramas, she is also the host of the radio program, Ayame Gouriki Smile Smile! in 2012 and Girls Locks! radio show from 2012-2015.

Best roles:

  • Future Diary / Mirai Nikki (2012) - Yuno Furusaki
  • Biblia Koshodō no Jiken Techō (2013) - Shioriko Shinokawa
  • L-DK (2014) - Aoi Nishimori
  • Black Butler / Kuroshitsuji (2014) - Kiyoharu Genpo / Shiori
  • The Prime Minister's Chef / Gu Ra Me! (2016) - Kurumi Ichiki
  • Doctor Car (2016) - Ichika Tendo
  • Rental Lover / Rental no Koi (2017) - Remi Takasugi
  • Joshu Seven (2017) - Kotone Kamiwatari

Mizuki Yamamoto

The Japanese actress who will never fail to make you smile is Mizuki Yamamoto. She is as a bright and cheerful actress with a gentle face. Mizuki was born on July 18, 1991 in Fukuoka, and a graduate of Meiji University, where she studied Life Science.With her natural beauty, she became the winner of the first annual Tokyo Supermodel Contest held in 2009. She began modelling for CanCam, a women's fashion mag in 2009. Not only she did appeared in several magazines, dramas, and films, but she is also a popular endorser seen on TV commercials.

Best roles:

  • The Kirishima Thing (2012) - Risa
  • Daily Lives of High School Boys / Danshi Kokosei no Nichijo (2013) - Yanagin
  • Black Butler / Kuroshitsuji (2014) - Mey-Rin
  • Sadako vs Kayako (2016) - Yuri Kurahashi
  • Peach Girl (2017) - Momo Adachi
  • Kyonen no Fuyu, Kimi to Wakare (2018) - Yuriko Matsuda
  • Yuuzai (2018) - Kiyomi Sugimoto

Mirei Kiritani

The sassy, but classically beautiful actress is Mirei Kiritani, who rose into fame not only for being a top-rated model, but also a top-rated actress. Mirei was born on December 16, 1989 in Chiba. She has been in many dramas and films since 2007, but her excellent acting skills brought her into several lead roles. She played the female lead in Heroine Shikkaku together with actor Kento Yamazaki. They paired again on the drama series, Sukina Hito ga iru Koto. She appeared not only in big and small screen, but also in web dramas, stage, music videos, video games, news, and radio.

Best roles:

  • Arakawa Under the Bridge (2011) - Nino
  • Heroine Shikkaku (2015) - Hatori Matsuzaki
  • Assassination Classroom / Ansatsu Kyoshitsu (2015) - Aguri Yukimura
  • Koisuru Vampire (2015) - Kiira
  • Sumika Sumire (2016) - Sumire Kisaragi
  • A Girl & Three Sweethearts / Sukina Hito ga Iru Koto (2016) - Misaki Sakurai
  • Revenge Girl (2017) - Miki Takaraishi
  • It's All About The Looks (2017) - Jun Jonochi

Mikako Tabe

One of the cutest and most marvelous actresses is Mikako Tabe, who maintained her "kawaii" image all through the years.She is a truly talented stage, drama, and film actress. Born on January 25, 1989 in Tokyo, she is also called "Tabe-chan". She starred in the stage as Kou Yaten in Sailor Moon musicals and many viewers praised her noteworthy acting. Since 2005, Mikako received several prestigious awards for her performances. In 2010, she played the role of Sawako Kuronuma in the live-action adaptation of Kimi ni Todoke, together with Haruma Miura. They joined again in the 2014 television drama, Boku no Ita Jikan.

Best roles:

  • From Me to You / Kimi ni Todoke (2010) - Sawako Kuronuma
  • Last Hope (2013) - Ayumi Tachibana
  • Naniwa Junior Detectives (2012) - Shinobu Takeuchi
  • Liar Game: Reborn (2012) - Yu Shinomiya
  • Boku no Ita Jikan (2014) - Megumi Hongo
  • Piece of Cake (2015) - Shino Umemiya
  • Ms. Sadistic Detective (2015) - Maya Kuroi
  • Sing My Life / Ayashii Kanojo (2016) - Setsuko Otori
  • Nichinichikorekojitsu (2018) - Michiko

Yui Aragaki

Yui Aragaki is a topnotch actress whose fame never ceases. She is one of the role models of many actors in Japan for her excellence and experiences in the field of acting. Yui was born on June 11, 1988 in Okinawa. Apart from acting, she is also a singer-songwriter, model, and occasional radio host. In 2001, at the age of 13, she began her Nicola modelling career, and she gained positive praises for her modelling skills. At her young age, she also appeared in several commercials, with her Pocky commercials being the most popular. She won her first award, the Nikkan Sports Film Award for Best Newcomer for the dramatic, tragic love story movie, Koizora.

Best roles:

  • Dragon Zakura (2005) - Yoshino Kosaka
  • Sky of Love / Koizora (2007) - Mika Tahara
  • Code Blue (2008, 2010) - Dr. Megumi Shiraishi
  • The Wings of the Kirin (2012) - Kaori Nakahara
  • Public Affairs Office in the Sky (2013) - Rika Inaba
  • The Memorandum of Kyoko Okitegami (2015) - Kyoko Okitegami
  • Have a Song on Your Lips / Kuchibiru ni Uta o (2015) - Yuri Kashiwaga
  • The Full-Time Wife Escapist / Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu (2016) - Mikuri Moriyama
  • Code Blue Season 3 (2017) - Megumi Shiraishi
  • Mixed Doubles (2017) - Tamako Tomita
  • Code Blue Movie (2018) - Megumi Shiraishi

Who is your favorite Japanese actress?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Mare-sensei

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Jo 

        5 months ago

        Your so good

      • profile image

        August 

        6 months ago

        Kanna Hashimoto is the CUTEST!!

      • profile image

        tanu 

        8 months ago

        Arimura Kasumi is the best.

      • profile image

        tanu 

        8 months ago

        Suzu Hirose is the best.

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