People’s Honor Award RecipientsSociety
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.
Up to now, 25 individuals have received the People’s Honor Award, 12 posthumously. In addition, the national women’s soccer team, nicknamed Nadeshiko Japan, became the first group to receive this award in 2011. The latest recipient of this prestigious award is the figure skater Hanyū Yuzuru who won his second consecutive Olympic gold medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. The official presentation ceremony will be held on July 2. The 23-year-old Hanyū will be the youngest person to receive the honor. The previous youngest recipient was the judoka Yamashita Yasuhiro, who was 27 when he received the award in 1984. The administration of Prime Minister Abe Shinzō thus far has bestowed the award on seven individuals, which is more than one-fourth of the total number of award recipients.
By profession, four awards were presented, respectively, to professional baseball players, actors, and composers; two to sumō wrestlers, singers, or wrestlers; and one to a mangaka, a film director, a judoka, an adventurer, a marathon runner, a go player, a shōgi player, and a figure skater—in addition the award given to the women’s soccer team.
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.
- Oh Sadaharu [Baseball player] September 5, 1977 Set new world record with 756 career home runs.
- Koga Masao [Composer] August 4, 1978 (Posthumously) Accomplishments on the Silver Screen.
- Hasegawa Kazuo [Actor] April 19, 1984 (Posthumously) Accomplishments on the Silver Screen.
- Uemura Naomi [Adventurer] April 19, 1984 (Posthumously) Successfully scaled the highest peaks on five continents, and other accomplishments.
- Yamashita Yasuhiro [Judoka] October 9, 1984 Outstanding career accomplishments.
- Kinugasa Sachio [Baseball player] June 22, 1987 Surpassed Lou Gehrig’s world record of 2,130 consecutive games played.
- Katō Kazue (Misora Hibari) [Singer] July 6, 1989 (Posthumously) Inspired the nation through her songs.
- Akimoto Mitsugu(Chiyonofuji Mitsugu) [Sumō wrestler] September 29, 1989 Set record for most career wins.
- Masunaga Takeo (Fujiyama Ichirō) [Singer] May 28, 1992 Gave hope and encouragement to society through his beautifully expressive singing.
- Hasegawa Machiko [Mangaka] July 28, 1992 (Posthumously) Enriched and entertained postwar society through her comic strip Sazae-san.
- Hattori Ryōichi [Composer] February 26, 1993 (Posthumously) Moved and inspired the public with his pop-music compositions.
- Tadokoro Yasuo (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.
- Yoshida Tadashi [Composer] July 7, 1998 (Posthumously) Created emotionally evocative and inspiring songs with distinct melodies.
- Kurosawa Akira [Film director] October 1, 1998 (Posthumously) Contributed to domestic and international film through his numerous masterpieces.
- 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.
- Endō Minoru [Composer] January 23, 2009 (Posthumously) Composed countless moving and inspiring popular songs.
- Murakami Mitsu (Mori Mitsuko) [Actor] July 1, 2009 Appeared over 2,000 times in the leading role of the play Hōrōki(A Wanderer’s Notebook).
- Morishige Hisaya [Actor] December 22, 2009 (Posthumously) Outstanding career accomplishments.
- Nadeshiko Japan(Japan national women’s soccer team) [Soccer team] August 18, 2011 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup champions.
- Yoshida Saori [Wrestler] November 7, 2012 Wrestling in the 55 kg division, became the first athlete to win 13 consecutive world championships.
- Naya Kōki (Taihō Kōki) [Sumō wrestler] February 25, 2013 (Posthumously) Dominated the sumō world, winning a (then) record 32 tournament.
- Nagashima Shigeo [Baseball player and manager] April 1, 2013 Inspired postwar society along with Oh Sadaharu as a superstar of the Yomiuri Giants.
- Matsui Hideki [Baseball player] April 1, 2013 Earned the Most Valuable Player award in helping the New York Yankees win the 2009 World Series.
- 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.
- Habu Yoshiharu [Shōgi player] February 13, 2018 First person in shōgi history to ever qualify as a lifetime holder of seven major shōgi titles.
- Iyama Yūta [Go player] February 13, 2018 First go player to twice hold all seven of the major go titles at the same time.
- Hanyū Yuzuru [Figure skater] July 2, 2018 First male figure skater in 66 years to win two consecutive gold medals at Olympic Winter Games.
(Information current as of July 2, 2018.)(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: © Jiji.)