Japan Data

People’s Honor Award Recipients


The Japanese prime minister presents the People’s Honor Award in recognition of the accomplishments of individuals in sport, entertainment, and other fields. Established in 1977, the award has gone to 24 recipients so far.

Honoring Society’s Heroes

Prime Minister Fukuda Takeo in 1977 established the People’s Honor Award to recognize widely respected individuals whose accomplishments have inspired society. It began as a way to celebrate professional baseball player Oh Sadaharu after he broke American slugger Hank Aaron’s career home-run record.

Recipients have hailed from the worlds of sport and entertainment, primarily, and have included professional and amateur athletes as well as singers, actors, and composers. To date 23 individuals have received the award, 12 posthumously, along with “Nadeshiko Japan,” the national women’s soccer team, whose members collectively became the first group to be honored after winning the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The most recent People’s Honor Award was given in 2016 to freestyle wrestler Ichō Kaori for becoming the first woman athlete in history to win individual gold medals at four consecutive Olympic Games.

Although the award is generally perceived as a high distinction, on several occasions nominated individuals have declined the honor. This includes baseball player Fukumoto Yutaka, tapped in 1983 after he set a new world record with 939 career stolen bases, and the family of Koseki Yūji after the renowned composer passed away in 1989. Baseball legend Suzuki Ichirō has turned down the award twice, once in 2001 and then again in 2004. On the first occasion, he gave the reason that, while he was honored, he was still in the midst of his career and developing as a player.

Date received (awarding prime minister) Reason Age at reception
1 Oh Sadaharu
[Baseball player]
September 5, 1977 (Fukuda Takeo) Set new world record with 756 career home runs 37
2 Koga Masao
August 4, 1978 (Fukuda) Accomplishments as a composer of songs with distinctive melodies Posthumously
3 Hasegawa Kazuo
April 19, 1984 (Nakasone Yasuhiro) Accomplishments on the Silver Screen Posthumously
4 Uemura Naomi
April 19, 1984 (Nakasone) Successfully scaled the highest peaks on five continents, and other accomplishments Posthumously
5 Yamashita Yasuhiro
October 9, 1984 (Nakasone) Outstanding career accomplishments 27
6 Kinugasa Sachio
[Baseball player]
June 22, 1987 (Nakasone) Surpassed Lou Gehrig’s world record of 2,130 consecutive games played 40
7 Katō Kazue (Misora Hibari)
July 6, 1989 (Uno Sōsuke) Inspired the nation through her songs Posthumously
8 Akimoto Mitsugu(Chiyonofuji Mitsugu)
[Sumō wrestler]
September 29, 1989 (Kaifu Toshiki) Set record for most career wins 34
9 Masunaga Takeo (Fujiyama Ichirō)
May 28, 1992 (Miyazawa Kiichi) Gave hope and encouragement to society through his beautifully expressive singing 81
10 Hasegawa Machiko
July 28, 1992 (Miyazawa) Enriched and entertained postwar society through her comic strip Sazae-san Posthumously
11 Hattori Ryōichi
February 26, 1993 (Miyazawa) Moved and inspired the public with his pop-music compositions Posthumously
12 Tadokoro Yasuo (Atsumi Kiyoshi)
September 3, 1996 (Hashimoto Ryūtarō) Entertained and moved the public with his empathetic performances as Tora-san in the movie series Otoko wa tsurai yo Posthumously
13 Yoshida Tadashi
July 7, 1998 (Hashimoto) Created emotionally evocative and inspiring songs with distinct melodies Posthumously
14 Kurosawa Akira
[Film director]
October 1, 1998 (Obuchi Keizō) Contributed to domestic and international film through his numerous masterpieces Posthumously
15 Takahashi Naoko
[Marathon runner]
October 30, 2000 (Mori Yoshirō) Become the first Japanese female track and field gold medalist by winning the 2000 Sydney Olympic women’s marathon 28
16 Endō Minoru
January 23, 2009 (Asō Tarō) Composed countless moving and inspiring popular songs Posthumously
17 Murakami Mitsu (Mori Mitsuko)
July 1, 2009 (Asō) Appeared over 2,000 times in the leading role of the play Hōrōki (A Wanderer’s Notebook) 89
18 Morishige Hisaya
December 22, 2009 (Hatoyama Yukio) Outstanding career accomplishments Posthumously
19 Nadeshiko Japan (Japan national women’s soccer team)
[Soccer team]
August 18, 2011 (Kan Naoto) 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup champions Honored as team
20 Yoshida Saori
November 7, 2012 (Noda Yoshihiko) Wrestling in the 55 kg division, became the first athlete to win 13 consecutive world championships 30
21 Naya Kōki (Taihō Kōki)
[Sumō wrestler]
February 25, 2013 (Abe Shinzō) Dominated the sumō world, winning a (then) record 32 tournament wins Posthumously
22 Nagashima Shigeo
[Baseball player and manager]
April 1, 2013 (Abe) Inspired postwar society along with Oh Sadaharu as a superstar of the Yomiuri Giants 77
23 Matsui Hideki
[Baseball player]
April 1, 2013 (Abe) Earned the Most Valuable Player award in helping the New York Yankees win the 2009 World Series 38
24 Ichō Kaori
October 20, 2016 (Abe) Wrestling in the 58 kg freestyle division, became the first female athlete to win individual gold medals at four consecutive Olympics 32

(Information current as of June 2017.)

(Originally published in Japanese on May 1, 2013; updated for translation. Banner photo: Wrestler Ichō Kaori, left, receives her People’s Honor Award at an October 20, 2016, ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Residence. © Jiji.)

entertainment sport People’s Honor Award