Renowned for its boundary-pushing ethos, the Japanese fashion world is making waves on the international stage. So, unsurprisingly Japanese models are also catching the world’s attention. With more and more fashion brands embracing diversity by showcasing models of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities, Japanese women have become runway regulars at international fashion weeks and are representing some of the biggest brands in global campaigns.
Paving the way for Japanese girls aspiring to be models, are the likes of top models Ai Tominga and Tao Okamoto.
Now aged 36, Ai Tominaga was one of the first Asian models to walk the runways of Europe, appearing for John Galliano, Vivienne Tam, Anna Sui, Christian Dior, Karl Lagerfeld, Gucci, Michael Kors and many more. Meanwhile, Tao Okamoto was one of the faces of Ralph Lauren in 2009 before going on to become the star of movies such as The Wolverine.
They opened the way for an exciting wave of Japanese modelling talent which now appears to be going from strength to strength.
Check out our list of the 12 Japanese models who are making industry waves.
12. Kozue Akimoto
More than a model, 30-year-old Akimoto is also an actress, DJ and street style icon. As the daughter of champion sumo wrestler Chiyonofuji Mitsugu, the Tokyo-based model has been in the public eye from an early age but she made a name for herself in the MTV Japan show Shibuhara Girls which premiered in 2011. Since then, she has walked runways around the world and appeared in campaigns for Givenchy, Kenzo and Adidas.
11. Kiko Mizuhara
Born in the United States (as Audrie Kiko Daniel) but then relocating to Japan, the Korean-American model is now known professionally as Kiko Mizuhara. 28-year-old Mizuhara has been modelling since the age of 12, also dabbling in acting and fashion design, collaborating with Opening Ceremony in 2013. In 2017, she launched her own design brand.
10. Rila Fukushima
The Tokyo-born model began her career in fashion appearing in a number of publications and advertising campaigns before turning her attention to acting. 30-year-old Fukushima has appeared in movies including The Wolverine and in cult TV show Game of Thrones as well as a number of high profile Japanese productions.
9. Yuka Mannami
Although she began her career as a nurse, Mannami was discovered on Instagram at the age of 23. Now 26, she has walked for Fendi and appeared in advertising campaigns for brands including Shiseido, Givenchy and Bottega Veneta as well as numerous magazines.
8. Rina Fukushi
With a Japanese-American father and a Filipina mother, Fukushi is described in Japan as a “hafu” model and has helped to challenge Japanese stereotypes of people of mixed origin. Still just 19, she has already appeared in campaigns for Revlon and H&M and walked for Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs and Zimmermann along with others.
7. Nairu Yamamoto
Tokyo-based Nairu Yamamoto is a Japanese model known for her playful Instagram account @nairuuuu – a great place to brush up on the latest Japanese fashion trends.
6. Safil Kawamura
When in London, Kawamura popped into the IMG offices and ended up signing a contract. Now just 21, he has walked for J.W.Anderson, Ann Demeulemeester, and Craig Green with editorial firmly in his sights.
5. Chiharu Okunugi
The 27-year-old was named one of Vogue Japan’s women of the year in 2013. She has walked for Versace, Altuzarra, Isabel Marant, Oscar de la Renta, Chanel, and Christian Dior as well as fast fashion labels like Uniqlo and H&M.
4. Manami Kinoshita
From Japan’s Fukui Prefecture, Kinoshita got into model straight from school. Now 25, she has worked with fashion houses including Balenciaga, Harley Weir, Alessair McKimm and Daniel Jackson.
3. Kiko Arai
A former Miss Japan, Arai’s modelling career started strong with the Osaka-born beauty walking for Balmain, Prada, Calvin Klein and Givenchy and appearing in a high profile Zara campaign in her first season.
2. Kohei Takabatake
Scouted by a stylist in 2017, Takabatake has since appeared on the catwalks of some of the world’s biggest fashion houses such as Versace, Louis Vuitton and Prada. He walked 25 shows for Fall/Winter 2018-2019 making him the male model who walked the most shows of the season.
1. Miki Ehara
A photographer discovered Ehara while she was working in a sporting goods store and she quickly caught the attention of Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière making her runway debut for the brand in autumn 2017. Although still a newcomer, Ehara has already walked for Dior, Nina Ricci, Michael Kors, Lanvin and more.