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08.17.2016by: Cherry Liquor

The Top 10 Sexiest Japanese Actresses

Before anyone can really dig into their gripes with Scarlett Johansson playing her originally Japanese character, The Major, in 2017's THE GHOST IN THE SHELL, we first have to ponder what was going on with KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS. While director Travis Knight was awesome as a part of the animation department during the construction of films such as CORALINE, PARANORMAN and THE BOX TROLLS, I'm not sure if that can get me to overlook the fact that the main voice actors employed for this new film are predominantly white. Whether it's an issue of the audience potentially not understanding a Japanese actor's accent when speaking English (very possible) or one of whether the audience would want to sit and read subtitles if the movie was voiced in Japanese (more likely, because it would render it less profitable), it still rubs me the wrong way. Partly because there are already scores of other beautiful, interesting Japanese animated films available already and partly because there are plenty of talented Japanese actors to choose from instead. But I digress. Here are 10 of my favorite sexy Japanese actresses.

#10 - Yu Aoi

Yu Aoi has been working in Japanese film and television since she was a teenager, including numerous voice roles for anime such as 2009's REDLINE. Aoi has a innocence about her that builds the desire to observe and protect, not necessarily the most seductive of traits for a top ten list like this, but it certainly shows that she has more depth than just the external.

#9 - Erika Sawajiri

For such a sweet looking little thing, Sawajiri somewhat derailed her career by being outspoken, something that is generally frowned upon in the traditionally conservative Japanese press. Then again, her cheesecake photos throughout the beginning of her career might not have pleased the upper crust either. While there was a big gap between her role in 2007's CLOSED DIARY (a dreamy vehicle that I'm surprised didn't get stolen for some Sandra Bullock-y actress) and 2012's HELTER SKELTER, a bold and intriguing horror film about a woman obsessed with cosmetic surgeries, it seems as if Sawajiri knows how to pluck the most eye-catching roles.

#8 - Yuriko Yoshitaka

For those who are into movies adapted from manga, you'll probably recognize Yuriko from her role as Tae Kojima, one of the teens who is recruited by a giant orb to fight aliens on Earth. (Because Japanese comic books are just as nutty as American ones.) If you're looking to explore a more seductive side of Yuriko, find SNAKES & EARRINGS, a movie about a woman exploring body modification, from tattoos to tongue splitting. While yes, she shows up nude, it also showcases her range as an actress.

#7 - Keiko Kitagawa

If you can sit through the TOKYO DRIFT installment in the FAST & FURIOUS franchise, you're braver than me (I could only do that once and prefer to think of it as a stand alone that sucked rather than a stop in the whole timeline) and you might recognize Kitagawa from her petulant losing driver role (there's a deleted scene where she struggles to deliver the line "Shut up, you prick!" in English). Keiko is more well known for her Japanese television career, popping up on a number of different shows, including that time she played Sailor Mars in the live action version of Sailor Moon.

#6 - Fumi Nikaido

If you haven't watched THE WARPED FOREST, get on that shit right now. It is weird, with a Japanese spin on the Alice in Wonderland bizarro stuff with a Cronenberg, Lynch, overly sexualized without being particularly erotic, just plain weird but strangely awesome if you can get your hands on it. That said, it's amazing to think that Nikaido is still so young (not quite 22) but so mature, a bit of a Jennifer Lawrence from the East. Watching her kick ass as a gangster's daughter looking to be a movie star in WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL? would be the more accessible feature, if you're timid.

#5 - Aoi Miyazaki

It might be best to consider Miyazaki a bit of a Rachael Leigh Cook kinda gal when it comes to her career. Think of a super cute girl who is by no means the ugly duckling a film tries to sell her as, later vamping up her style to show off she was the bombshell after all and you've got what Aoi is best at. When dressed up, she certainly looks the sex symbol but it's in those quiet moments that you realize just how powerfully beautiful her simple self is.

#4 - Yoko Maki

I suppose one could argue that Yoko Maki isn't the hottest, most beautiful Japanese actress out there, perhaps complaining of her decision to cut her hair short or not go for the showboating roles that bring attention to others. But what you can't argue with is her effectiveness as an actress, including her role in the sublime LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, a film so good, Steven Spielberg headed the Dreamworks' decision to buy it for an American remake. Just keep in mind, the original is always better and you get to appreciate Maki while you're at it.

#3 - Miki Mizuno

Whenever Miki gets close to having a more "mainstream" career (defined largely by working with English speaking directors, etc), she falters. With the HBO Singapore original film DEAD MINE, we get a group of adventurers getting themselves into predictable horror scenarios. It fails to capitalize on Mizuno's range as an action actress, where she shines in other Japanese lead films, such as GUILTY OF ROMANCE and CASTLE UNDER FIERY SKIES. The very fact that she has visible grey hair in her films (at 42, she's aging appropriately by real life standards rather than Hollywood ones) is intoxicating, showing that a woman doesn't have to be 20 to seduce and kick ass.

#2 - Haruka Ayase

I might have gotten into checking out Haruka's films because I read a YA book called Cinder in which the Cinderella story is reimagined as an Asian female cyborg who might be an intergalactic princess. Yeah, crazy. But the film CYBORG GIRL came 4 years before that first book and it makes me think that the author might have been inspired by the sweet devotion that Ayase puts forth as a cyborg who travels back in time to save her maker. I love that she has such a strong grasp on ridiculous comedy while still walking hand-in-hand with the drama of the moment. Haruka is hot but watch her because she's also awesomely talented as an actress.

#1 - Rinko Kikuchi

Rinko is most widely known from her role as Mako Mori in del Toro's PACIFIC RIM, where she showed off her tough girl fighting style in the way that American films want Japanese actresses to perform. Where Kikuchi gets more interesting is off camera, where she frequently poses nude for photoshoots, something generally frowned upon if you want to be a successful actress in Japan. Between her top and bottomless moment and strangely effective performances in unique films such as KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER, in which a woman believes that the movie FARGO is a treasure map to a hidden stash of cash and traverses frozen Minnesota to find it (sounds like a comedy, but isn't and while the story is embellished, it IS based on a real woman).

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