Famous People Of Japanese Descent

Several well-known movers and shakers are of Japanese ancestry. Some celebs were born overseas, and others are third- and fourth-generation Japanese Americans. Many of these famous stars, actors, athletes, and musicians have had successful careers in the US and all over the world. But who is likely the most famous person of Japanese Descent?

Yoko Ono tops our list. The famous artist and musician was born in Japan to Japanese parents. Her banker father was transferred frequently, and the family lived in San Francisco, Japan, and New York during Ono's childhood. She married Beatles superstar John Lennon in 1969, and together they held "bed-ins" to promote peace all over the world. They remained together until Lennon's death in 1980.  

Read on to discover other popular Olympians, athletes, journalists, musicians, filmmakers, actors, and more of Japanese descent.

  • Actor Dean Cain's paternal grandfather was Japanese, and the family's real surname is Tanaka. Cain was born in Michigan and grew up in California.

    Dean George Cain (né Tanaka; born July 31, 1966) is an American actor, producer and television show host, best known for playing the role of Clark Kent/Superman in the TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He was also host of Ripley's Believe It or Not! and appeared in the soap opera series Hit the Floor.
    • Age: 56
    • Birthplace: Mount Clemens, Michigan, USA
  • Ann Curry's parents met during the US occupation of Japan following WWII. Her father Bob was in the US Navy, and her mother, Hiroe Nagase, lived in Japan. Born in Guam, Curry spent some years in Japan before moving to America with her family.

    • Age: 66
    • Birthplace: Guam
  • Fred Armisen's father is half-Japanese, and his mother is Venezuelan. The former SNL actor was born in Mississippi and raised in New York.

    Fereydun Robert "Fred" Armisen (born December 4, 1966) is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer and musician best known as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 2002 until 2013. Armisen has portrayed characters in comedy films, including EuroTrip, Anchorman and Cop Out. With his comedy partner Carrie Brownstein, Armisen is the co-creator and co-star of the IFC sketch comedy series Portlandia. Armisen founded ThunderAnt.com, a website that features the comedy sketches created with Brownstein, and is the bandleader and frequent drummer for the Late Night with Seth Meyers house band, The 8G Band. For his work on Portlandia, Armisen was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding ...more
    • Age: 56
    • Birthplace: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA
  • Steve Aoki is the son of Hiroaki "Rocky" Aoki, the Tokyo-born former wrestler who founded the Benihana restaurant chain. The DJ was born in Miami and grew up in Southern California.

    • Age: 45
    • Birthplace: Miami, Florida
  • Pat Morita
    Photo: ABC Television / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Noriyuki "Pat" Morita is of Japanese descent. From age 11 to 13, during the last years of WWII, he lived in a Japanese internment camp with his family.

    Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (June 28, 1932 – November 24, 2005) was an American actor and comedian known for his roles as Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi on Happy Days (1975–1983), Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid film series and The Toymaster in Babes in Toyland. Morita was nominated for the 1985 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid. Morita also voiced the Emperor of China in the Disney animated film Mulan (1998) and portrayed Ah Chew in Sanford and Son (1974–1976). Morita was the series lead actor in the television program Mr. T and Tina (1976) and in Ohara (1987–1988), a police-themed drama. The two shows made history for being among the few TV shows ...more
    • Age: Dec. at 73 (1932-2005)
    • Birthplace: Isleton, USA, California
  • Apolo Ohno
    Photo: Noelle Neu / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Apolo Anton Ohno's father Yuki was born in Japan. The Olympic speed skater was born and raised in Seattle.

    Apolo Anton Ohno (; born May 22, 1982) is an American retired short track speed skating competitor and an eight-time medalist (two gold, two silver, four bronze) in the Winter Olympics. Ohno is the most decorated American Olympian at the Winter Olympics. Raised by his father, Ohno began training full-time in 1996. He has been the face of short track in the United States since winning his medals at the 2002 Winter Olympics. At the age of 14, he became the youngest U.S. national champion in 1997 and was the reigning champion from 2001–2009, winning the title a total of 12 times. In December 1999, he became the youngest skater to win a World Cup event title, and became the first American to ...more
    • Age: 41
    • Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, USA