Anna Sawai

Anna Sawai (アンナ・サワイ, born June 11, 1992) is a Japanese actress, singer, and dancer.

Born in New Zealand, she moved to Japan with her family at age 10 and rose to fame in Japan as one of the lead vocalists of the girl group Faky from 2013 to 2018. She is best known for her acting roles in Colors (2018), Giri/Haji (2019), F9 (2021), Pachinko (2022–present), Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (2023–present) and her critically acclaimed portrayal of Mariko in the FX historical drama series Shōgun (2024–present).

Anna Sawai
Born (1992-06-11) June 11, 1992 (age 31)
Wellington, New Zealand
Alma materSophia University
  • Actress
  • singer
  • dancer
Years active2004–present
Musical career
Formerly of

Early life

Anna Sawai was born on June 11, 1992, in Wellington, New Zealand, to parents of Japanese descent. Her mother worked as a piano teacher, while her father worked for an electronics company. From age 3, her mother taught her how to play the piano and how to sing. Her family moved frequently while growing up due to her father's job, living in Hong Kong and the Philippines, before settling in Yokohama, Japan, at age 10. Her elder sister, Reina, is a ballet dancer and coryphée at the Hong Kong Ballet company.


Early acting roles and Faky (2004–2018)

Sawai made her acting debut at age 11 in 2004 in a Tokyo stage production of Annie as the titular character, which was simulcast on Nippon TV. Sawai successfully auditioned for the entertainment conglomerate Avex Inc. in 2006, earning her a management contract and training at their in-house music and dance bootcamp. Following this, Sawai continued her acting career with a minor role in the television drama Our Love Song (2007), and made her Hollywood feature film debut in a supporting role in James McTeigue's martial arts film Ninja Assassin (2009), in which she played Kiriko, a rebellious young ninja.

Sawai continued to receive vocal and dancing lessons throughout high school, and later enrolled at Sophia University. While attending university, Sawai was taken on by the Avex Trax record label and in March 2012, she performed the United States national anthem at the Tokyo Dome to begin the 2012 Major League Baseball season. A month later, Sawai was announced as one of the members of the girl group ARA, an acronym for Avex Rising Angels, and that November they released the music video for their first and only single "Make My Dreams Come True". The group disbanded in early 2013 after less than a year of promotions, but in July that year, Avex announced that Sawai would be re-debuting as one of the lead vocalists for the girl group Faky under the Rhythm Zone record label. They debuted with the single "Better Without You" on July 29, 2013.

While performing as a member of Faky, Sawai participated in a number of solo projects. In October 2015, she appeared as the lead actress in Elliott Yamin's music video for his song "Katy". Sawai was a featured artist alongside fellow bandmate Akina on Yamato's debut single "Shining", which was released on April 26, 2017. Later that year, Sawai had a voice role as Angélique Noir in the 2017 fashion simulation video game Style Savvy: Styling Star and performed the main theme song for the game "Girls Be Ambitious". In 2018, she made a return to acting with a supporting role in the coming-of-age mystery series Colors, appearing in two episodes. In May 2018, she appeared as a dancer in a limited run stage production of The Book, directed by Fuko Takenaka, as part of the Think Tank Bang dance art collective.

On November 16, 2018, Faky announced Sawai's departure from the group, citing her desire to focus on her acting career. She performed with the group for the last time on December 20 as part of their Four headline tour.

Breakthrough in Hollywood (2019–present)

In 2019, Sawai portrayed Eiko, the daughter of a Yakuza boss, in the British crime thriller series Giri/Haji. The series premiered on BBC Two in October to critical acclaim. That same year, Sawai was cast as martial arts warrior Elle in F9, the ninth film in the Fast & Furious franchise, directed by Justin Lin. Following her casting announcement, Sawai signed with WME. Filming for F9 took place between June and November 2019, and the film was released on May 19, 2021, to mixed reviews. F9 set several pandemic box office records with worldwide earnings of $726 million, and Sawai was particularly praised for "holding her own alongside franchise veterans".

Since 2022, Sawai has portrayed the main role of Naomi in the Apple TV+ adaptation of Pachinko, based on the novel of the same name by Min Jin Lee. Naomi is an original character created for the series. The show debuted on March 25, 2022, to critical acclaim; the following month it was renewed for a second season. The ensemble cast of the series won an Independent Spirit Award. In June 2022, Sawai was cast as Cate Randa, the lead role in Legendary's MonsterVerse television series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. The show is a spin-off of the 2014 film Godzilla, and premiered on Apple TV+ on November 17, 2023, to positive critical reception.

In September 2021, Sawai was cast as the female lead, Lady Mariko, in the FX limited series Shōgun, based on the novel by James Clavell. The series premiered in February 2024, and Sawai received critical acclaim for her performance. The New York Times said Sawai "is thoroughly convincing and captivating as Mariko," and Rolling Stone said Sawai "speaks volumes with every pained look on Mariko’s face". called her performance "revelatory", and Entertainment Weekly praised Sawai for evolving the role past the 1980 version with "steely strength and spirited temper befitting a more modern audience". The Hollywood Reporter identified the performance as a career achievement for the actress: "Sawai has been tip-toeing around full-fledged stardom for several years with supporting roles... but this feels like her arrival. The actress inhabits Mariko so fully as a fragile, wavering soul and a stealthy badass."

Personal life

Sawai is bilingual in English and Japanese. She resides in Tokyo, Japan.


Denotes productions that have not yet been released


Year Title Role Ref.
2009 Ninja Assassin Kiriko
2021 F9 Elle


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
2007 Our Love Song Natsu 1 episode
2018 Colors Train station accuser 2 episodes
2019 Giri/Haji Eiko Fukuhara Main role, 6 episodes
2022–present Pachinko Naomi Main role, 6 episodes
2023–present Monarch: Legacy of Monsters Cate Randa Main role, 10 episodes
2024–present Shōgun Toda Mariko Main role, 10 episodes

Music videos

Year Title Artist Role Ref.
2015 "Katy" Elliot Yamin Lead role

Video games

Year Title Voice role Notes Ref.
2017 Style Savvy: Styling Star Angélique Noir North American and PAL versions

Stage credits

Year Production Role Venue Ref.
2004 Annie Annie Aoyama Theatre
2018 The Book Dancer Owlspot Theatre


Awards and nominations

Award Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
Pena de Prata 2022 Best Ensemble in a Drama Series Pachinko Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards 2023 Best Ensemble Cast in a New Scripted Series Won
Gotham TV Awards 2024 Outstanding Performance in a Limited Series Shōgun Pending



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Anna Sawai Early lifeAnna Sawai CareerAnna Sawai Personal lifeAnna Sawai FilmographyAnna Sawai Stage creditsAnna Sawai DiscographyAnna Sawai Awards and nominationsAnna Sawai

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