Japan Data

People’s Honor Award Recipients


Wheelchair tennis player Kunieda Shingo is set to become the latest recipient of Japan’s People’s Honor Award on March 17.

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.

On March 3, 2023, the government decided to make wheelchair tennis player Kunieda Shingo the latest recipient of the award. Kunieda, who has a Career Golden Slam for winning all four major tournaments along with the Paralympics competition, is the first parasports athlete to be honored. In a dominant career, he amassed 28 singles and 22 doubles titles, as well as 4 Paralympics gold medals in both singles and doubles, and retired while still at the top of the world rankings.

Including Kunieda, 27 individuals have received the People’s Honor Award, 12 of whom did so posthumously. In addition, the national women’s soccer team, nicknamed Nadeshiko Japan, became the first group to receive this award in 2011. Kunieda is the first recipient under the administration of Kishida Fumio.

Among the individual winners, four have been, respectively, professional baseball players, actors, and composers; two sumō wrestlers, singers, or wrestlers; and one a mangaka, a film director, a jūdōka, an adventurer, a marathon runner, a go player, a shōgi player, a figure skater, and a wheelchair tennis player.

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.

Major league baseball star Ohtani Shōhei also turned down the award in 2021, stating that it was too early.

  1. Oh Sadaharu [Baseball player] September 5, 1977
    Set new world record with 756 career home runs.
  2. Koga Masao [Composer] August 4, 1978 (Posthumously)
    Accomplishments on the Silver Screen.
  3. Hasegawa Kazuo [Actor] April 19, 1984 (Posthumously)
    Accomplishments on the Silver Screen.
  4. Uemura Naomi [Adventurer] April 19, 1984 (Posthumously)
    Successfully scaled the highest peaks on five continents, and other accomplishments.
  5. Yamashita Yasuhiro [Jūdōka] October 9, 1984
    Outstanding career accomplishments.
  6. Kinugasa Sachio [Baseball player] June 22, 1987
    Surpassed Lou Gehrig’s world record of 2,130 consecutive games played.
  7. Misora Hibari [Singer] July 6, 1989 (Posthumously)
    Inspired the nation through her songs.
  8. Chiyonofuji Mitsugu [Sumō wrestler] September 29, 1989
    Set record for most career wins.
  9. Fujiyama Ichirō [Singer] May 28, 1992
    Gave hope and encouragement to society through his beautifully expressive singing.
  10. Hasegawa Machiko [Mangaka] July 28, 1992 (Posthumously)
    Enriched and entertained postwar society through her comic strip Sazae-san.
  11. Hattori Ryōichi [Composer] February 26, 1993 (Posthumously)
    Moved and inspired the public with his pop-music compositions.
  12. Atsumi Kiyoshi [Actor] September 3, 1996 (Posthumously)
    Entertained and moved the public with his empathetic performances as Tora-san in the movie series Otoko wa tsurai yo.
  13. Yoshida Tadashi [Composer] July 7, 1998 (Posthumously)
    Created emotionally evocative and inspiring songs with distinct melodies.
  14. Kurosawa Akira [Film director] October 1, 1998 (Posthumously)
    Contributed to domestic and international film through his numerous masterpieces.
  15. Takahashi Naoko [Marathon runner] October 30, 2000
    Become the first Japanese female track and field gold medalist by winning the 2000 Sydney Olympic women’s marathon.
  16. Endō Minoru [Composer]  January 23, 2009 (Posthumously)
    Composed countless moving and inspiring popular songs.
  17. Mori Mitsuko [Actor] July 1, 2009
    Appeared over 2,000 times in the leading role of the play Hōrōki(A Wanderer’s Notebook).
  18. Morishige Hisaya [Actor] December 22, 2009 (Posthumously)
    Outstanding career accomplishments.
  19. Nadeshiko Japan (Japan national women’s soccer team) [Soccer team] August 18, 2011
    2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup champions.
  20. Yoshida Saori [Wrestler] November 7, 2012
    Wrestling in the 55 kg division, became the first athlete to win 13 consecutive world championships.
  21. Taihō Kōki [Sumō wrestler] February 25, 2013 (Posthumously)
    Dominated the sumō world, winning a (then) record 32 tournament.
  22. Nagashima Shigeo [Baseball player and manager] April 1, 2013
    Inspired postwar society along with Oh Sadaharu as a superstar of the Yomiuri Giants.
  23. Matsui Hideki [Baseball player] April 1, 2013
    Earned the Most Valuable Player award in helping the New York Yankees win the 2009 World Series.
  24. Ichō Kaori [Wrestler] October 20, 2016
    Wrestling in the 58 kg freestyle division, became the first female athlete to win individual gold medals at four consecutive Olympics.
  25. Habu Yoshiharu [Shōgi player] February 13, 2018
    First person in shōgi history to ever qualify as a lifetime holder of seven major shōgi titles.
  26. Iyama Yūta [Go player] February 13, 2018
    First go player to twice hold all seven of the major go titles at the same time.
  27. Hanyū Yuzuru [Figure skater] July 2, 2018
    First male figure skater in 66 years to win two consecutive gold medals at Olympic Winter Games.
  28. Kunieda Shingo [Wheelchair tennis player] March 17, 2023
    As the leading wheelchair tennis player for many years, he raised the profile of parasports.

(Information current as of March 3, 2023.)

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Kunieda Shingo serving at the Japan Open Wheelchair Tennis Championship final on October 8, 2022. © Jiji.)

People’s Honor Award