6. Katsura Sunshine
Born Gregory Robic in Toronto, Canada, Sunshine is a traditional Japanese rakugo storyteller. After studying classics at the University of Toronto, he made his way to Japan to study Noh and Kabuki theater. Before getting into rakugo, he worked as an English teacher at Tokyo's Daigakushorin International Language Academy. In 2008, he began his apprenticeship with Katsura Sanshi, and debuted in 2009 under the name Katsura Sunshine.
Sunshine nominally lives in Ise, Mie Prefecture, but travels the globe performing all over, including Singapore, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and of course in his native Canada.
7. Frankie Cihi
Painter Frankie Cihi, a half-Japanese half-American graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts, made the move to Tokyo after finishing school, where she taught English before gracing the television screen—including her stint as a cast member of the 2014 hit reality show Terrace House. A versatile artist, her work, with a focus on bold colors and organic symmetry, can be seen on buildings as murals around the Tokyo metropolis, as well as overseas.
In 2016, she teamed up with Microsoft to create artwork using the Surface Pro 4. Check out the video above to see her at work.
Enka is a long-established form of Japanese music that originates from the Meiji Period (1868–1912) and lives on today, though in a slightly different form. And one figure that truly represents that change is Jero, who—after a brief stint teaching at an English conversational school—became the first professional American enka singer in Japan in 2008.
More comfortable performing in street wear and pinstripe suits instead of the conventional kimono, his unique fashion is a sharp and fascinating contrast to the traditional music and lyrics of enka. With his smooth vocals, Jero appeals to older fans of the genre while inspiring young people to take a fresh look at their parents' musical style.
9. Dante Carver
Although he managed to teach English in Kyoto for a short time in 2005, Dante Carver received his considerable fame and recognition as a long-running recurring character for Softbank, the Japanese mobile phone company. Playing the brother of Aya Ueto in the quirky "White Family" Softbank commercials, he has received a considerable amount of praise and accolades for his television appearances. In fact, Carver was voted the most popular male actor in a TV commercial in Japan in 2008! He has been featured in other media, such as film and television dramas, and we look forward to seeing his star continue to rise.
10. David Mitchell
British author David Mitchell is well regarded for his books number9dream and Cloud Atlas—especially the latter, which was turned into a major Hollywood film. But lesser-known is the fact that this Booker Prize-nominated writer was an English teacher in Japan for eight years.
In his mid-twenties, Mitchell made his way to Hiroshima, where he taught at language school and then a university. The university job gave him the opportunity to fully devote himself to writing, and he published his very first story, Ghostwritten, in 1999. Mitchell has since returned to the United Kingdom, but the impact his time in Japan left on him can be seen in his works.