When famed director Akira Kurosawa took to the stage in 1989 to accept an Honorary Academy Award, in many ways he did so to correct some of the past wrongs of the academy itself. Being one of the most influential directors of all time, Kurosawa was amazingly only nominated by the academy once over his very long career. So, in 1989, directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were selected to call out his contributions through the honorary category.

This wouldn’t be the last time that a famous director from Japan would achieve this award, as in 2014 Hayao Miyazaki picked up an Honorary Academy Award of his own. Likewise to Kurosawa, Miyazaki never received an Academy Award before… but his films did.

This article is being updated after the historic 96th Academy Awards. An event that not only saw two films that Toho distributed secure nominations, but even more shocking when both films took him an Oscar. Those productions being Godzilla Minus One (2023), taking home the gold for best visual effects, and The Boy and the Heron (2023), winning for best animated feature. While the 96th Academy Awards was one for the record books for Toho, it was not the first time a Toho production was honored with a Oscar. This article chronicles the productions and people who have been involved in Toho produced and distributed films who were honored, either through nomination or a win, by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

1956

Best Foreign Language Film: Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954) – WON

1957

Best Production Design: So Matsuyama for Seven Samurai (1954)
Best Costume Design: Kohei Ezaki for Seven Samurai (1954)

1962

Best Costume Design: Yoshiro Muraki for Yojimbo (1961)

1966

Best Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara for The Woman in the Dunes (1964)
Best Foreign Language Film: The Woman in the Dunes (1964)

Kwaidan (1965)

Kwaidan (1965)

1967

Best Foreign Language Film: Kwaidan (1965)

1972

Best Foreign Language Film: Dodes’kaden (1970)

1976

Best Foreign Language Film: Sandakan No. 8 (1974)

1981

Best Production Design: Yoshiro Muraki for Kagemusha (1980)
Best Foreign Language Film: Kagemusha (1980)

Ran (1985)

Ran (1985)

1986

Best Director: Akira Kurosawa for Ran (1985)
Best Production Design: Yoshiro Muraki and Shinobu Muraki for Ran (1985)
Best Costume Design: Emi Wada for Ran (1985) – WON

2003

Best Animated Feature: Spirited Away (2001) – WON

2006

Best Animated Feature: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

2014

Best Animated Feature: The Wind Rises (2013)

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

2015

Best Animated Feature: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

2016

Best Animated Feature: When Marnie Was There (2014)

2017

Best Animated Feature: The Red Turtle (2016)

2019

Best Animated Feature: Mirai (2018)

Godzilla Minus One (2023)

Godzilla Minus One (2023)

2024

Best Visual Effects: Godzilla Minus One (2023) – WON
Best Animated Feature: The Boy and the Heron (2023) – WON

 

For a bit of trivia, Yoshiro Muraki has secured the largest number of nominations of anyone from Japan by the academy with four nominations, as beyond the listed Toho titles he was also nominated for his work on the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! in 1970. Also, the first Japanese movie to not just be nominated but actually receive an Oscar was Daiei studios’ Rashomon in 1951.

As another side note, this list is not to be confused with the Japanese Academy Awards. This is a separate event, done by a different academy found inside Japan. That said, perhaps an article for a different day will cover which Toho films and staff have been honored through those awards.