The actor’s popularity is growing in his native Japan, but he’s already found himself big in China.

By Matthew Hernon

When we first met Yuki Furukawa towards the end of 2012 he was just starting out as an actor after changing his mind about doing a master’s degree in engineering. Softly spoken, yet highly ambitious, he told us his goal was to try and emulate an actor like Ken Watanabe who had earned success on a global scale. Fast forward twelve months and Furukawa would appear to be on the right track.

Ok, so he is nowhere near Watanabe’s level just yet, but he already boasts quite an international following after his portrayal of Naoki Irie in the drama Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo. While not a massive ratings success in Japan, the latest installment of Kaoru Tada’s popular manga Itazura Na Kiss proved to be a huge hit with Chinese and Taiwanese audiences, particularly young females who seemed to love Naoki, the cocky yet charming high school student played by Furukawa.

The role earned him an army of Chinese fans and numerous offers to appear in magazines like Elle. After just four months on Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter) he had amassed over 600,000 followers. In July he held a fans meeting in Shanghai and was taken aback by the reception he received.

“At first it was a little bit strange,” he told Shanghai Daily. “To be frank I never realized I was so successful in China until I saw them there.”

Yuki Furukawa and the Weekender's Matthew Hernon, 2012

Yuki Furukawa and the Weekender’s Matthew Hernon, 2012

He will have to start getting used to it as his popularity there continues to soar. He has also recently become more well-known in his own country following roles in two movies: Beyond the Memories and The Eternal Zero. Offers of work will no doubt continue to flood in over the next twelve months. 2014 is set to be a big year for the 26-year-old.

Image courtesy of Takayuki Yoshida