Ichiro Suzuki, who established a Major League Baseball record for hits in a season with 262, was ranked top by respondents who were asked to choose three or fewer Japanese who had succeeded overseas since the end of World War II.
The second most common response was Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for inventing iPS, or induced pluripotent stem, cells.
In third place was film director Akira Kurosawa, renowned for influencing directors from many countries.
The top 10 slots were mostly occupied by the names of film directors, athletes and entrepreneurs.
Two other giants in the field of arts were in the top 10: conductor Seiji Ozawa, who served as musical director of the Vienna State Opera, was fourth, while Hayao Miyazaki, a director who won an Academy Award for "Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi" (Spirited Away), was ninth.
Theoretical physicist Hideki Yukawa, the first Japanese national to win a Nobel Prize, occupied the No. 5 slot, followed by Kei Nishikori, a rising tennis star who last year was the US Open runner-up.
Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motor Co., and Konosuke Matsushita, who established Panasonic Corp., were both ranked seventh.
In 10th place was Sadako Ogata, who served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees and has held other important posts.
Ichiro and Yamanaka were ranked first and second by both male and female respondents.
After that opinions differed, with males ranking Yukawa third, Kurosawa fourth and Matsushita fifth, while females ranked Nishikori third, Ozawa fourth and Miyazaki and Kurosawa tied for fifth.
Among respondents in their 20s and 30s, Nishikori was in third place, followed by Miyazaki and Kurosawa. Yamanaka was ranked top, followed by Yukawa and Ichiro, among those in their 60s or over.