10 Most Popular Japanese Actors on MDL

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First of all, I’m writing this article not to merely jot down a list but more to briefly introduce the readers to some of the popular Japanese actors. I bet that MDLers who regularly watch Japanese dramas, or dorama (ドラマ ), most likely will read this article. But I also sincerely hope that those who have just started watching J-dramas or even the ones who have no clue about the zippy doramaland will also read it.

Before we go down the list, just a little detour, please be patient. My journey in doramaland started not too long after I was born in Dramaland in 2019. Having watched K-dramas and K-movies mostly, I really dipped one toe into doramaland by watching the 1-episode drama special Watashi ni Unmei no Koi Nante Arienaitte Omotteta because of the attractive English title My Long Awaited Love Story and the pretty Tabe Mikako (pictured with co-star Takahashi Issei).

Having watched the Korean Boys Over Flowers, I was soon attracted to the Japanese Hana Yori Dango series, which many MDLers swear is the best of the franchise. True to their declarations, HYD sucked me into doramaland until now. I still remember the bright smile of Matsumoto Jun (left picture with co-star Inoue Mao) and the expressive eyes of Oguri Shun (right picture), who brought to life the manga characters of Domyoji Tsukasa and Hanazawa Rui, respectively. As you go down the list, you will find out that 15 years later, Matsujun (number 6; in his upcoming movie 99.9: Keiji Senmon Bengoshi The Movie) and Oguri Shun (number 5; in his latest official picture) still showed their signature characteristics that also contribute to their popularity despite their ages: Jun’s bright smile and Shun’s expressive eyes!

As I have mentioned above, doramaland is zippy. What do I mean by zippy? Japanese dramas are fast, animated, and fresh. FAST: Typical doramas have 10 episodes, you can binge-watch them in one day. Don’t watch while they’re airing, though, as they air only one episode a week, lol! Moreover, with only 10 episodes, the plot is straight-to-the-point, with no draggy side stories or unnecessary side characters unless supporting characters are called for. ANIMATED: As sometimes (especially if the dramas are live adaptations from mangas), the characters, and therefore the acting, are like the anime, unrealistic. But that’s what makes doramas so different from the ones of other countries. Finally, FRESH: Oftentimes, doramas have atypical and interesting plots, with twists and turns. I will give you an example: the easy guilty pleasure Kuzu no Honkai, played by number 8 on the list, Sakurada Dori (pictured with co-star Yoshimoto Miyu). I will not spoil the synopsis here, but once you watch it, you won’t believe it’s a high school drama! In my opinion, I don’t think the drama can ever be adapted or imitated into K-dramas, C-dramas, or Thai dramas!

The caveat with Japanese dramas, though, is the lack of subs. Unlike Korean and Chinese dramas, which definitely view international viewers as their secondary market, Japanese production companies and local TV stations don’t bother to officially translate their dramas into English unless they are picked up by Netflix or Viki, for example. I had to watch Meiji Kaika: Shinjuro Tanteicho, played by number 10 on the list, Fukushi Sota, in Indonesian! Although I only understand a little due to having a few Indonesian friends in the university, at least I know the story. I also watched Hot Mom in Indonesian because of the cutie pie Chiba Yudai (unfortunately, he didn’t make the list). A very heart-warming love story, a better adaptation of its original C-drama because it’s to-the-point and not draggy. If it is ever subbed in English, I highly recommend you guys to watch it!

Let’s go down the list now. As it’s not my intention to make ten Ultra Fan Guides (one is already a lot of work, lol), I only put very basic info of the actors. If you want to know more about them, I provided Wikipedia sources for each actor. Moreover, many already have UFG articles written on them (links provided), thanks to fellow MDLers who have written the articles! I also listed some of their dramas/movies for which the actors got awarded or became popular. But I have some disclaimers below:

  • The ranking is based on the likes/hearts given by fellow MDLers. This is not my personal top 10 list.
  • The websites provided are the actor’s official agency websites. 
  • The information gathered is from the English version of Wikipedia that may not be as complete as the Japanese version. 
  • The rank, likes/hearts, and Wikipedia information are from the data taken on August 2, 2021. Any discrepancy happened due to changes after the article was submitted for editing.

Let’s begin with the countdown!

Actor – Singer – Dancer – Model 

♡ 1,837+

Singer – Actor – TV and radio host – TV producer – Model

♡ 1,866+

Born: February 23, 1986

Years active: 1998–present

Height: 171 cm (5 ft 7 in)

Website: KAT-TUN More info:
Kazuya Kamenashi 
A Stalker’s Guide to Kamenashi Kazuya (2017)
A Stalker’s Guide: Kamenashi Kazuya (2012)

Actor – Singer – Radio Host – Dancer – Model 

♡ 2,030+

Born: August 30, 1983

Years active: 1996–present

Height: 173 cm (5 ft 8 in)

Website: Arashi More info:
Wikipedia: Jun Matsumoto
A Stalker’s Guide to Matsumoto Jun (2017)
A Stalker’s Guide: Matsumoto Jun (2012)
Awarded/popular works99.9: Keiji Senmon Bengoshi – Season II (2018), 99.9: Keiji Senmon Bengoshi (2016), Shitsuren Chocolatier (2014), Girl in the Sunny Place (2013), Lucky Seven (2012), Natsu no Koi wa Nijiiro ni Kagayaku (2010), Smile (2009), Hana Yori Dango Final (2008), Hana Yori Dango 2 (2007), Bambino! (2007), Hana Yori Dango (2005),  Gokusen (2002)

Future works: 99.9: Keiji Senmon Bengoshi The Movie (2021), Dou Suru Ieyasu (2023)

Actor – Voice Actor – Film Director

♡ 2,064+

Born: December 26, 1982 

Years active: 1994–present

Height: 184 cm (6 ft 1⁄2 in)

Website: Shun Oguri More info:
Shun Oguri
A Stalker’s Guide to Oguri Shun (2017)
A Stalker’s Guide to Oguri Shun (2014)

Singer – Actor – Radio host – TV presenter

♡ 2,358+

Born: April  9, 1985

Years active: 1996–present

Height: 175 cm (5 ft 9 in)

Website: Tomohisa Yamashita
Social: Instagram
More info:
 Tomohisa Yamashita
A Stalker’s Guide to Yamashita Tomohisa (2017)
A Stalker’s Guide To: Yamashita Tomohisa (2012)
Awarded/popular worksBoku, Unmei no Hito desu (2017), Code Blue 3 (2017), 5-ji Kara 9-ji Made (2015), Algernon ni Hanataba o (2015), Saikou no Jinsei no Owarikata – Ending Planner (2012), Code Blue 2 (2010), Buzzer Beat (2009), Code Blue (2008), Proposal Daisakusen (2007), Nobuta Wo Produce (2005)

Future works: no data

Born: March 21, 1989

Years active: 2006 – present

Height: 170 cm (5 ft 7 in)

Website: Takeru Sato More info:
Takeru Satoh
A Stalker’s Guide to Sato Takeru (2018)
A Stalker’s Guide To Sato Takeru (2013)
Awarded/popular works: Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning (2021), Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (2021), Koi wa Tsuzuku yo Doko Made mo (2020), Gibo to Musume no Blues (2018), Hanbun, Aoi (2018), Ajin: Demi-Human (2017), Tenno no Ryoriban (2015), Rurouni Kenshin: The  Legend Ends (2014), Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno (2014), Bitter Blood (2014), Tonbi (2013), Rurouni Kenshin (2012), Beck (2010), Bloody Monday 2 (2010), Mei-chan no Shitsuji  (2009), Bloody Monday (2008)

Future works: In The Wake (2021), First Love Hatsukoi (2022)


Finally, now that you have scrolled down the list, you found out that all these actors are good looking, right? Despite their appearances and/or roles with messy hair (left picture: my favorite and most-watched Japanese actor, number 1 on the list, Yamazaki Kento in Theatre: A Love Story), they’re still cute. For example, the right picture of Furukawa Yuuki (see number 9), which I found so different from his usual looks that I had to pick that picture!

But I believe you all agree with me that these actors are not just popular because of their good-looking appearance, but more importantly because of their works. I could only list their dramas/movies, but many of them also have occupations besides being actors for which they received awards.

I understand that you may have a favorite Japanese actor who didn’t make the top 10 list. So what to do to make MDLers more aware of him thus give him lots of hearts/likes? Here are my from-hard-to-easy tips:

  • Most challenging: Write an Ultra Fan Guide for the actor to dig out his life story and career.
  • A little bit hard: Write recap articles on his dramas to convince us to watch him.
  • Middle ground: Write glowing reviews on his dramas/movies.
  • Almost easy: Send him flowers, so his picture shows up on the Stars Leaderboard.
  • Too easy, it’s a given: Flood the Feed or Discussion section with his best pictures! ;D

Who is your favorite actor from (or not from) the list?

     Thanks for reading and happy watching!    

Thank you to the editors who edited this article. I do not own any of the images used. Credits go to the respective owners. Image sources: drama character stills, actor’s official websites, and internet search.

Edited by: YW (1st editor), devitto (2nd editor)

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