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One thing I love about Japan is the way it connects us with everyone who has visited before us, and if you’ve ever stood in a convenience store puzzling over the strange products they were selling, you can know that many others have done the same thing, even the Dalai Lama. Here’s a list of 14 famous people who love Japan.
Albert Einstein. He visited Japan in 1922, staying six weeks while lecturing on Relativity at Keio University. He went to Nara, no doubt feeding the deer and struggling with his yukata just like any of us. Earlier this year I finally visited the piano he played while he was there.
Hellen Keller. She made a celebrated visit to Japan in 1937 and received an Akita dog as a gift. She raised funds for the statue of the most famous dog in Asia, Hachiko after the war.
Vincent van Gogh. If you’ve ever struggled with kanji, you’re in good company. Van Gogh was fascinated with Japonisme and made his own versions of the most famous ukiyo-e, complete with reproducing kanji on the painting.
Edward Norton. The dude from Fight Club and the original Hulk film has studied Japanese for 12 years and once lived in Osaka.
Quentin Taratino. He visits Japan often and likes to buy anime at the Liberty store in Akihabara. He appeared in a commercial with the famous Softbank dog, Otousan.
Arnold Schwarzenegger got his big break as The Terminator, but “Schwa-chan” also had a successful career in Japan making bizarre TV commercials. He visits often.
Tommy Lee Jones. For 12 years and running, the actor has been appearing in commercials for Boss Coffee, playing an alien on Earth to observe us. Must be a nice side gig.
Bob Sapp. The former NFL player and professional wrestler became a household name in Japan from appearing on variety shows. He’s legendary because he’s so huge and scary, but he’s really a big teddy bear inside.
Billy Blanks. When his star faded in the U.S. the “Tae Bo boot camp” came to Japan and made quite a splash here. He liked Japan so much, he divorced his wife and married his cute-as-a-button Japanese translator.
Mark Hamil. Luke Skywalker went to high school in Yokosuka. Who knew? I wonder if he watched any anime while here?
Steven Segal. The martial arts master is super popular in Japan since he’s fluent in the language and runs an Aikido dojo in Osaka. My father-in-law watches his movies on TV whenever they’re on.
Jon Heder, aka Napolean Dynamite. He spent two years in Japan as a Mormon missionary and picked up the language.
Steve Stevens, the awesome guitarist who played all of Billy Idol’s famous songs as well as the “Top Gun” theme. I met him after a show once, and he surprised me by being familiar with Japan, and even J-List’s home prefecture of Gunma.
Martin Friedman, the guitarist for Megadeath, moved to Japan and has had great fun learning Japanese. He appears on cooking shows here. Talk about living your dreams.
Ulysses S. Grant. After his second term ended, the former Union General and President took a whirlwind trip around the world, and made a big splash in Meiji Era Tokyo, getting to meet the Meiji Emperor. He also helped negotiate a treaty between Japan and China.
Did we miss any other famous people who love Japan? Tell us on Twitter!