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The 10 Most Famous People From Tokyo

Marie Kondo is the queen of tidying
Marie Kondo is the queen of tidying | © Christopher Polk / REX
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Updated: 22 March 2019
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Japan has given the world some of history’s greatest authors, musicians, directors and thinkers. Here are ten of the most famous people from the capital, Tokyo.

Yoko Ono

Famous for her marriage to John Lennon, Yoko Ono – a peace activist, conceptual artist and avant garde musician in her own right – was born in Tokyo in 1933 before emigrating with her family to New York after World War II. She was dubbed by Lennon as the ‘world’s most famous unknown artist’ due to everyone knowing her name without being aware of the sheer amount of work she’s created. She continues to strive for peace today, making a profound difference through her activism in support of gun control and against fracking. Her most famous performance, Cut Piece, features Ono on stage as the audience cut her clothes with scissors.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Mediapunch/REX/Shutterstock (5770085ab) Yoko Ono The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil 10th Anniversary, Las Vegas, USA - 14 Jul 2016
© Mediapunch / REX

Hayao Miyazaki

Miyazaki is responsible for bringing dreams to life and joy to millions around the world, through his fantastical animations. Born in 1941, the filmmaker established the legendary Studio Ghibli (often dubbed the ‘Disney of Japan’) in 1985. From then, Ghibli has gone on to produce a series of box-office hits and award-winning films, giving Miyazaki his status as Japan’s leading animator. The studio’s most successful film, Spirited Away (2001), won an Oscar and is one of the highest-grossing films in Japan’s history (only recently dethroned by Your Name, 2016). The animation was written and directed by Miyazaki; he even drew the storyboards himself.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA/REX/Shutterstock (7954580g) Japanese Film Director and Animator Hayao Miyazaki Speaks During a Press Conference in Tokyo Japan 06 September 2013 Oscar-winning Miyazaki Said He Will Retire From Making Feature-length Film Japan Tokyo Japan Miyazaki - Sep 2013
© Franck Robichon / EPA / REX

Hideo Kojima

Japan is known for its huge contributions to the gaming world, and there are few names more respected in the world of video games than Kojima. Born in 1963, Kojima began working for Konami in 1986 as a screenwriter, where he would later become a game designer, producer and director. His ‘Metal Gear’ title laid the foundations of all future stealth games, with the acclaimed Metal Gear Solid (released for PlayStation in 1998) solidifying him as one of the most esteemed video game designers in history.

Editorial use only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Ecclestone/Future/REX/Shutterstock (8899931e) Brighton United Kingdom - July 13: Portrait Of Japanese Video Game Designer Hideo Kojima Photographed At The Develop Conference In Brighton England On July 13 Hideo Kojima Portrait Shoot, Brighton BRIGHTON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 13: Portrait of Japanese video game designer Hideo Kojima, photographed at the Develop conference in Brighton, England, on July 13, 2016. (Photo by Richard Ecclestone/Edge Magazine)
© Richard Ecclestone / Future / REX

Marie Kondo

An international success with several books and a new Netflix show that has been making waves, Marie Kondo applies her distinctly Japanese approach to organisation and decluttering using her own KonMari method. Her biggest success, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has been translated into 30 languages and has sold millions of copies. Her lifestyle brand, which also delves into traditional Japanese philosophy and home-keeping techniques, has made her a household name.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Seth Wenig/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9769461p) Marie Kondo speaks at a media event in New York Marie Kondo, New York, USA - 11 Jul 2018
© Seth Wenig / AP / REX

Keiichi Tanaami

Tanaami was at the forefront of the pop artists emerging from post-war Japan. Born in 1936, he was just nine years old when Tokyo was bombed, marking his early life with chaos and upheaval. He has been (and still is) active as a multi-genre artist, known for being experimental and provocative with his work. Much of his art depicts the contrast between life and death. His work draws on those early years witnessing hundreds of bombs land on Tokyo, the war-torn Japan that followed and his own ill health later in life.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Masatoshi Okauchi/REX/Shutterstock (409544c) Keiichi Tanaami, alleges that British fashion duo Clements Ribeiro copied his designs and passed them off as their own. He plans to sue them in a British court and make them withdraw their clothes and accessories from sale. Tanaami alleges that Clements Ribeiro copied designs from his book 'Blow Up', a collection of his work from the 1960s and 70s, and used them on clothes and accessories in their Spring / Summer 2003 collection. In November 2002, one of Tanaami's students saw a magazine article and recognising designs used on many of the clothes and accessories featured in Clements Ribeiro's collection as being by Tanaami, the student congratulated his professor on having his work shown in this way. Unfortunately, this was the first that Tanaami had heard of it . According to Tanaami, the Clements Ribeiro collection included clothes and bags which were blatantly based on his own designs. Tanaami's lawyers protested to Clements Ribeiro via their agent in Japan, and in January 2003 lodged a complaint of breach of copyright. In February, Suzanne Clements (33) and her Brazilian born husband Inacio Ribeiro (40) acknowleged the plagiarism and apologised. In a letter, Clements Ribeiro accepted responsibility, and said that they would visit Japan in March to apologise face to face. However, according to Tanaami, Clements Ribeiro were not sincere and have show no sign of complying with Tanaami's demands, and he is now considering taking legal action in the UK. Mr. Tanaami's lawyers say that, although Clements Ribeiro allegedly agreed to withdraw the disputed items, they were still on sale in Japan until early March; the situation in the UK, Europe and elsewhere is not clear. Tanaami's book 'Blow Up' was published in Japan in 2001 Pic shows: Clements Ribeiro poster (l), Tanaami original design (r) KEIICHI TANAAMI, GRAPHIC ARTIST WHO CLAIMS HIS WORK HAS BEEN COPIED BY FASHION DESIGNERS CLEMENTS RIBEIRO
© Masatoshi Okauchi / REX

Hiromi Kawakami

One of Japan’s most esteemed contemporary writers, Kawakami is known for her offbeat slice-of-life fiction that has won her numerous literary awards. Guiding readers through the backstreets of Tokyo with her detailed descriptions, her works such as Strange Weather in Tokyo and The Nakano Thrift Shop have become national treasures. Kawakami’s novels have been translated into more than 15 languages and have been adapted for television and film.

Akira Kurosawa

Regarded as one of Japan’s greatest directors, Kurosawa began making films in the 1930s and enjoyed a career spanning 57 years. His most famous works include the psychological thriller Rashomon, centring around the body of a dead samurai. This was his first film to star Toshiro Mifune, an actor he would go on to work with countless times. His famous samurai films inspired many future directors, including George Lucas, who has stated time and again that Kurosawa’s work directly inspired the Star Wars series. Many of his films were later turned into Westerns, like Last Man Standing (1996) starring Bruce Willis. Kurosawa was awarded the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1990.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Anonymous/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6536443a) Japanese director Akira Kurosawa is shown in 1990 photo Akira Kurosawa director, Los Angeles, USA
© Anonymous / AP / REX

Yukio Mishima

Known for both his fiction and his literary and political criticism, Mishima is one of Japan’s most widely read authors, both at home and internationally. He has been nominated for a Nobel Prize three times for his novels, and the Mishima prize was established in 1988 to honour his life and work. His written works are often overshadowed by his nationalist activities, such as founding his own militia and organising a coup d’état, as well as his dramatic suicide via seppuku (honourable death by suicide) in 1970.

Yukio Mishima poses at his home in Tokyo, Japan
© Nobuyuki Masaki / AP / REX

Takeshi Kitano

The multi-talented Japanese director – who has also had critical acclaim as a comedian, actor, singer and author, among other talents – had originally planned to be an engineer before being expelled from his school in Tokyo. His mentor, the prolific comedian Senzaburô Fukami, guided him down the path he’s now famous for. He’s most commonly known by his screen name Beat Takeishi; his most famous films centre around yakuza gangsters and the criminal underground, and champion a trademark deadpan acting style. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Moscow Film Festival in 2008.

Editorial use only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA/REX/Shutterstock (8522019h) Takeshi Kitano 'Ghost in the Shell' movie press conference in Tokyo, Japan - 16 Mar 2017 Japanese actor/cast member Takeshi Kitano attends a press conference promoting the movie 'Ghost in the Shell' in Tokyo, Japan, 16 March 2017. The movie based on a Japanese manga will be screened across the country from 07 April 2017.
© Franck Robichon / EPA / REX

Olivia de Havilland

A surprising inclusion in this list to many, Academy Award-winner Olivia de Havilland led an exciting life which initially began in Tokyo. She spent her first three years in Japan with her British parents and her sister Joan Fontaine before their mother insisted they leave due to the girls’ ill health. They settled in the USA but their professor father later returned to Japan. She is most famous for her character Melanie Hamilton in the classic Gone with the Wind (1939) and for her award-winning roles in The Heiress (1949) and To Each His Own (1946). She now lives in France.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Thibault Camus/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6311107d) U.S. actress Olivia de Havilland poses during an Associated Press interview, in Paris, Saturday, June 18, 2016. She may be losing her sight and hearing, but the mind of the indomitable actress Olivia de Havilland, who turns 100 Friday, remains as sharp as a tack. France Olivia de Havilland, Paris, France - 18 Jun 2016
© Thibault Camus / AP / REX
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