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10 Most Talented Japanese Actors/Idols

Updated on May 12, 2016

In Japanese culture, media personalities who are specifically trained and groomed by entertainment companies to be role models are not frowned upon, and the industry itself is widely embraced by the Japanese. Referred to as ‘idols,’ these artists play a wide range of roles; from pop singers, to hosts, models, and even actors. By virtue of being multidisciplinary and trained to maintain a perfect public image, it’s hard to stand out with mere talent alone. But there are those who do float to the top and are considered as cream of the crop.

Sure, they do look good, as it is one of the main selling points of an idol, and doubly so because many of them are also actors, but their true value is that they are multi-talented and can bring a lot more than good looks to the table. Out of all of them, here are the 10 most talented Japanese idols:

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Jun Matsumoto

Boyband: Arashi

  • Often referred to by his fans as MatsuJun.
  • During his time in Arashi, showed exceptional skills as a singer, actor, and even as a radio host.
  • Despite starting out as a musician, Matsujun has since proven himself to be an exceptional actor, turning in award-winning performances in numerous dramas and movies.
  • Also has experience in stage plays, playing the part of Teddy Duchamp in the stage play Stand by Me.

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Recommended Movies/TV Drama:

  • Gokusen and Gokusen SP (TV) - played Shin Sawada, who is one of the lead characters
  • Hana Yori Dango and sequel (TV) - played lead male role Tsukasa Domyoji
  • Tokyo Tower (Movie) - played Koji, one of the two lead male roles in this two-story romantic film.

Acting Style

  • First became known for effectively portraying roles of optimistic prettyboys, mainly due to this role as the half-Japanese/half-Filipino Vito Hayakawa in the drama Smile, which won him the Best Actor award during the 13th Nikkan Sports Drama Grand Prix
  • Matsujun has since showed more range as he appeared in more projects, with the most notable one so far being his role in Tokyo Tower, where he played a lovelorn young man who develops feelings for a married woman. The theme and issues the role addressed required him to break away from the innocent, eternally-optimistic pretty boy roles that made him popular during his early TV drama stints.

Kamenashi Kazuya

Boyband: KAT-TUN

  • Charismatic and talented enough to become co-lead vocalist of KAT-TUN
  • Has a wide variety of skills: aside from being an accomplished singer, he is also a songwriter, radio host, model and an actor
  • Has several lead roles in popular TV dramas under his belt.

Recommended Movies/TV Drama:

  • Nobuta Wo Produce (TV series) - played one of the lead roles, Shuji Kiritani
  • Gokusen 2 - played Ryu Odagiri, one of the lead roles of Season 2
  • Yuuki (Movie) - played the titular role, based on a true story

Acting Style

  • Kazuya Kamenashi a wide range, as evidenced by his portrayal of a sickly yet wise and positive young Man in Yuuki,
  • He went the other way with the secretly lonely, repressed "cool guy" Shuji Kiritani in Nobuta Wo Produce

Yamashita Tomohisa

Boyband: NEWS

  • Referred to as Yamapi by his fans.
  • Unlike the majority of members of the Johnny & Associates talent agency, who start out as singers and performers before branching out into other fields, Yamapi started out as an actor.
  • Debuted in NHK’s Shonetachi in 1998 and using it as a stepping stone to other notable projects such as Proposal Daisakusen, Buzzer Beat, Nobuta wo Produce and others.
  • It was only in 2004 when he officially debuted as a part of NEWS.

Recommended Movies/TV Drama:

  • Nobuta wo Produce (TV series)- played one of the lead characters, Kusano Akira
  • Ashita no Joe (Movie) - based on the iconic manga/anime franchise, played lead character Jo Yabuki in the 2011 version

Acting Style

  • Seems to be a natural for playing brooding, stoic men, which is made even more effective by his androgynous facial features.
  • His role in the Ashita no Joe adaptation also shows that he can play the role of a fighter believably.

Nishikido Ryo

Boyband: Kanjani Eight

  • Another idol under the umbrella of Johnny & Associates
  • Ryo Nishikido used to be a member of the boyband NEWS, but left because of scheduling conflicts with Kanjani Eight
  • Despite starting out as a singer, Ryo has since become a staple of J-dramas, turning in notable performances in major roles such as Haruto Asou in 1 Litre of Tears, Keisuke Kawai in Niini no Koto o Wasurenaide, Shota Nakahara in Attention Please, among others.

Recommended Movies/TV Drama:

  • Attention Please (TV Series) - played the role of male lead Nakahara Shota
  • 1 Litre of Tears (TV Series) - based on a true story, Ryo played the lead character's love interest, Haruto Aso

Acting Style

  • Ryo is primarily a musician/performer, and hasn't been in many movies, but he does a decent job in his TV drama roles, putting in decent performances in roles that would otherwise only require a man to look good (something that he has no trouble accomplishing.)

Kimura Takuya

Boyband: SMAP

  • Nicknamed "Kimutaku" by his fans
  • Kimutaku is somewhat older than many of the idols in this list (born November 13, 1972)
  • Still popular in an industry that values youthful appearance in spite of his age, serving as a testament to his talents.
  • Aside from being an accomplished singer and performer, Kimutaku is also an acclaimed actor in TV dramas and movies, a host for a number of TV variety shows, and various stage plays (including the stage play adaptation of the popular anime/manga Saint Seiya.)

Recommended Movies/TV Drama:

  • Hero (TV series and Movie) - Kimutaku plays the lead role, Kohei Kuryu. It is recommended to watch both the TV series and the film as it shows two different skills of the character. The TV series shows his pre-trial investigative skills, while the movie showcases his legal skills within the courtroom.
  • 20146 (Movie) - a chinese art film where Kimutaku plays an important side character

Acting Style:

  • Due to his age, Takuya can no longer do the young prettyboy roles that are normally assigned to idols (or if he did, it would look awkward) but he has since proven himself capable of handling more mature roles.
  • His performance in the art film 2046 is worth watching, as it shows that he's capable of sharing screen time with international big screen heavyweights like Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, and Faye Wong.

Miura Haruma

Boyband: Brash Brats

  • Brash brats is currently on hiatus, but Haruma is still very active in the entertainment industry as an actor.
  • He first gained notoriety as an actor in Gokusen 3, and continued showing his acting skills in the 2007 film Koizora.
  • Miura Haruma gained even more fame when he landed a leading role in the drama Bloody Monday, which is based on the same titled manga.

Recommended Movies/TV Drama:

  • Space Pirate Captain Harlock (Movie) - Haruma only provided his voice here, but it's for one of the lead characters Yama.
  • Gokusen 3 - the Gokusen series is a smorgasbord of idols, and Haruma is one of those who managed to stand out as Ren Kazama

Acting Style

  • Miura has a very expressive voice, and his role in the CG film Space Pirate Captain Harlock shows that he's not reliant on his good looks to be effective. He can sell scenes even with his voice.

Masahiro Nakai

Boyband: SMAP

  • Age has not affected his popularity. At age 42, Masahiro Nakai is still popular in an industry that caters to teenage girls.
  • An accomplished singer and actor.
  • Masahiro Nakai also showed exceptional charisma and comedic timing as co-host of the long-running music show Utaban, serving as an equally hilarious foil to comedian Takaaki Ishibashi.

Recommended Movies/TV Drama:

  • Ataru (TV series) - in this film, Masahiro Nakai played an autistic man who holds the key to solving many mysteries
  • Utaban (TV show) - in the music variety show Utaban, he shows his natural talent as a host, as well as his comedic chops, serving as foil to his co-host, the comedian Takaaki Ishibashi.

Acting Style

  • Like fellow SMAP member Kimutaku, Masahiro Nakai's age meas he can no longer play teen heartrobs effectively, but he more than makes up for it by showing a wide range.
  • He proved this by playing the idiot savant in Ataru which he managed to do without looking pathetic.
  • He also did odd comedy routines in Utaban, particularly the episodes with Hello Project's Morning Musume, several members of which he made fun of without being offensive.

Oguri Shun

  • Born to a theater director father and raised along with an actor brother, it is not surprising that Oguri Shun grew up to become a multi-talented individual in his own right.
  • Unlike the rest of the idols in this list, Oguri Shun is not a boyband member
  • Started as a child actor at the tender age of 12, appearing in the live action drama adaptation of Great Teacher Onizuka
  • Shun soon landed major roles in different movies and dramas, including challenging ones such as a deaf person in Summer Snow and as the iconic Shinichi Kudo in Detective Conan.

Recommended Movies/TV Drama:

  • Great Teacher Onizuka - his debut role, as the child Noboru Yoshikawa
  • Crows Zero 2 - as the lead character Genji Takiya

Acting Style

As the son of a theater director and the brother of an actor, coupled with his early start as an actor, it's not surprising that Oguri Shun has exceptional acting ability.

At the age of 12, he was able to portray the role of an abused and bullied kid, which required a heavy dose of acting ability. He showed that rare ability to show anger, angst and pain without saying a lot. It's all in his eyes and it could drown you.

Akanishi Jin

Boyband: KAT-TUN

  • Jin is an exceptional singer, which led to him becoming one of the two lead singers of KAT-TUN.
  • Besides being a performer, Jin is also a song writer.
  • He’s also gained a lot of attention for various roles as an actor, including Keannu Reaves’ CG-heavy take on the 47 Ronin.

Recommended Movies/TV Drama:

  • Bandage (Movie) - played the main role Natsu Takasugi, while also doing the singing parts.
  • 47 Ronin (Movie) - played Chikara Oishi, one of the 47

Acting Ability

His role in the CG/costume-fest 47 Ronin shows that Jin is more than just a pretty face and a singing voice. Not only was he required to show heartbreak (as the son of an unfairly executed feudal lord,) he also needed to show off some swordplay skils.

Ninomiya Kazunari

Boyband: Arashi

  • A Japanese idol, songwriter, actor, singer, voice talent, and radio host, Ninomiya Kazunari is considered as one of the most talented members of Arashi
  • Being considered as the most talented member of Arashi is an accomplishment because the group is known for being made up of multi-talented idols.

Recommended Movies/TV Drama:

  • Letters from Iwo Jima (Movie) - a hollywood film, where he played the role of Private First Class Saigo, a conscripted baker.
  • Ai no Hono (Movie) - Kazunari played the lead role, Shūichi Kushimori, which required Kazunari Ninomiya to tackle sensitive themes such as parricide, incest, murder, and suicide - themes that are unconventional among idol roles.

Acting Ability

Although MatsuJun is often lauded as the best actor in Arashi, Kazunari is the only that managed to snag an international movie.
Enough said.

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      mikikko 18 months ago

      Nagase and Okada are both badass idols and despite their age they're still handsome also the guys from EXILE are pretty hot and popular (atleast in Japan) and talented as well...

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      China Abarquez 2 years ago

      Yamapi and Jun Matsumoto