Japan is a country of contrasts, a land caught between strong traditionalism and a place made famous for its technological superiority and innovation. Japan went from having a tumultuous and contested role in the Second World War to being embraced globally for its popular culture and art. This small island has given humanity and global culture a myriad of influential people. These are the five most influential people from Japan.
1. Shigeru Miyamoto – Creator of Super Mario
Not one creator has influenced popular culture more in recent years than Shigeru Miyamoto. His creations not only ushered in a new era in home entertainment, they have become synonymous with video games. He created the Super Mario, Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda games, inadvertently saving Nintendo which was on the verge of going under. After multiple years of game development, Miyamoto has been called by the Times “The Spielberg of Video Games” and “The Father of Video Games”. Without his creative contribution, video gaming would not be the 100+ billion dollar industry it is today.
2. Hayao Miyazaki – The Japanese Walt Disney
With a career that spans five decades and dozens of movies to his credit, Miyazaki has influenced generation upon generation of fledgling animators, screenwriters and creators. His films usually revolve around themes of nature and technology, humanity and pacifism. He is known for his cheerful storytelling and stunning animation.
3. Takashi Murakami – Artist/Designer
Takashi Murakami is a Japanese contemporary artist who has not only made a mark in the art world, but has also bled into popular culture. He has designed album art for Kanye West, designed handbags for Louis Vuitton and created animations for Pharrell Williams. He is often exhibited alongside his contemporaries and famous artists such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. Murakami has not only blurred the lines of ‘high art’ and ‘low art’ (as in commercial art), he has created a unique artistic style called super-flat. He is one of the most desirable living artists in the world at the moment.
4. Hideo Kojima
Much like his spiritual predecessor Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima has been one of the key trailblazers of modern digital entertainment. Acclaimed as one of the most influential video game creators, directors and writers today, he is the director of Kojima Production and is currently the Vice President of Konami Digital Entertainment. His most famous creation was the Metal Gear series of stealth games, that not only introduced a new type of game play based not on brute force but instead conflict avoidance; it also featured a rich narrative which makes sense considering Kojima dabbled in illustration, writing and film-making before venturing into video game creation.
5. Akio Toyoda
Toyoda is actually the president of the Toyota Motors. He is a legacy as his family where the owners of Toyoda Automatic Loom Works that incorporated Toyota Motors. He is actually the grandson of the founder, Kiichiro Toyoda. He has not rested on his laurels though. He has managed holding the upper most tier of management at Toyota to push the brand out of crisis and into the top global sales spot.
Japan is a beautiful, historically and culturally rich country that has given the world many great thinkers and innovators. This island nation’s cultural staple has created a society with integral work-ethic, forward thinking and respect to tradition.
Have I missed an influential person from Japan that you would like to add to the list? Leave your comment in the section below!