Japanese Models: The Industry’s Leading Faces

Joanna Elizabeth

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Updated December 26, 2023

Japanese Models
Discover the top Japanese models.

In a world where fashion intersects with global culture, Japanese models have risen as icons, seamlessly blending traditional aesthetics with contemporary chic. These models have graced international runways and fashion campaigns and expanded their horizons beyond the catwalk.

These trendsetters have transcended boundaries from Tao Okamoto’s chic presence in Paris and Hollywood to Rila Fukushima’s edgy style in major fashion and film projects. Their stories are not just about glamour but about these Asian models breaking norms, embracing individuality, and inspiring a new generation of fashion enthusiasts.

Japanese Models

Tao Okamoto

Tao Okamoto Japanese Model Jean Nelson
Tao Okamoto. Photo: Jean_Nelson / Deposit Photos

Tao Okamoto, a renowned Japanese model, has carved a distinguished path in the global fashion industry. Her career skyrocketed after moving to Paris, leading to her debut on the European runways.

Okamoto’s breakthrough moment came in 2009 when she was chosen as the face of Ralph Lauren, catapulting her to international fame. She became known for her iconic bowl haircut, which became her signature look and sparked a trend in the fashion world.

Beyond modeling, Okamoto ventured into acting, notably appearing in The Wolverine alongside Hugh Jackman and the NBC show Hannibal.

Rila Fukushima

Rila Fukushima Model
Rila Fukushima on the cover of L’Officiel Singapore. Photo courtesy

Rila Fukushima’s career in modeling and acting is marked by her distinctive look and dynamic presence. Initially gaining recognition in fashion, Fukushima graced numerous international campaigns and catwalks, showcasing her versatility and unique aesthetic.

Her striking features and edgy style quickly made her a favorite among major fashion brands like Louis Vuitton and Chloe. Fukushima’s transition into acting brought her further acclaim, notably for her roles in The Wolverine movie as Yukio and Ghost in the Shell as Red Robed Geisha.

Chiharu Okunugi

Chiharu Okunugi Japanese Model
Chiharu Okunugi. Photo: SharpShooter / Deposit Photos

Chiharu Okunugi’s ascent in the fashion industry is a testament to her unique appeal and professionalism. Emerging from Tokyo, Okunugi swiftly gained attention during international fashion weeks thanks to her signature bob-length haircut. 

Her career boasts an impressive portfolio, including high-profile appearances in campaigns and walking in runway shows for luxury designer brands like Chanel, Dior, Versace, and Saint Laurent. She even modeled lingerie for Victoria’s Secret. 

Kiko Mizuhara

Kiko Mizuhara Japanese Model
Kiko Mizuhara. Photo: ChinaImages / Deposit Photos

Kiko Mizuhara’s career is a vibrant tapestry of fashion, modeling, and cultural influence. Born in America, Kiko lived in Japan as a child. Her unique style and charismatic persona quickly catapulted her to prominence. 

Mizuhara’s fashion journey is marked by runway appearances with high-end brands like Moschino and appearances in notable international magazines such as Vogue Japan, making her a fixture in the fashion industry. Beyond modeling, she expanded her horizons into acting and designing with multiple collaborations.

Ai Tominaga

Ai Tominaga Japanese Model
Ai Tominaga. Photo: ChinaImages / Deposit Photos

Ai Tominaga’s modeling path stands as a remarkable journey in the world of high fashion. Breaking into the industry in the early 2000s, Tominaga quickly became one of Japan’s most celebrated models, known for her statuesque figure and elegant poise. 

The beauty walked for prestigious fashion houses like Prada, Alexander McQueen, Dior, and Marc Jacobs. Her grace and distinct look led to prominent appearances in major fashion advertising campaigns and the famous Pirelli Calendar. The model even collaborated with the soup brand Green Spoon on a line.

Mika Schneider

Mika Schneider Japanese Model
Mika Schneider. Photo: SharpShooter / Deposit Photos

With a French-Japanese heritage, Mika Schneider’s unique background has played a crucial role in defining her distinct look. Her ascent in the fashion world has been marked by her appearances in campaigns for some of the most prestigious brands, including Chanel, Saint Laurent, and Givenchy.

She has also graced the cover of the French, Hong Kong, and Japanese versions of Vogue.

Rola

Rola Japanese Model
Rola. Photo: Jean Nelson / Deposit Photos

Rola is a celebrated Japanese model and television personality of Japanese, Russian, and Bangladeshi heritage. Her distinctive look and vibrant personality quickly made her a favorite in Japan. 

Rola’s modeling career began with local brands, but her charm and unique style soon caught the attention of larger audiences like Boucheron and Gap.

She became a regular feature in popular fashion magazines and has appeared in the pages of ELLE Japan, Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, and Numero Tokyo

Yuka Mannami 

Yuka Mannami Japanese Model
Yuka Mannami. Photo: SharpShooter / Deposit Photos

Yuka Mannami went from an unexpected transition from nursing to fashion, exemplifying a remarkable tale of discovery and success. Her modeling journey began at 23 when she was discovered via Instagram. This led her to walk in the Fendi show in Tokyo. 

Mannami has since become a familiar face in the industry, appearing in advertisements for esteemed brands like Shiseido, Uniqlo, Givenchy, and Nordstrom. She also graced the pages of leading magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar Hong Kong, Vogue Italia, and American Vogue.

Rina Fukushi

Rina Fukushi Japanese Model
Rina Fukushi. Photo: SharpShooter / Deposit Photos

Japanese-Filipina model Rina Fukushi began in the industry with her discovery at age 14 in Tokyo’s Harajuku district, encapsulating a meteoric rise in the fashion industry. Fukushi has modeled for an impressive roster of prominent fashion brands, including Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, and Bottega Veneta, showcasing her adaptability.

Her debut as a Louis Vuitton exclusive at Paris Fashion Week marked a significant milestone. 

Icons of Japan

The stories of these iconic female Japanese models are narratives of personal style, bold choices, and breaking barriers.

Tao Okamoto’s journey from Parisian runways to Hollywood sets, Rila Fukushima’s transition from high-fashion muse to action star, and Chiharu Okunugi’s rise from Tokyo’s fashion scene to international acclaim each reveal a commitment to evolving personal brands and an unwavering determination.

Their stories encourage embracing individuality and pushing beyond the expected. As models, actors, and influencers, they redefine the role of fashion icons in the modern era.


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