The present study attempted to identify the efficient hazardous metal-removing sorbent from specific types of soil, upper and middle layer shirasu, shell fossil, tuff, akadama and kanuma soils of Japan by physico-chemical and metal (arsenic, cadmium and lead) removal characterizations. The physico-chemical characteristics of soil were evaluated using X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy techniques, whereas metal removal properties of soil were characterized by analyzing removal capacity and sorption kinetics of potential metal-removing soils. The chemical characteristics revealed that all soils are prevalently constituted of silicon dioxide (21.83–78.58 %), aluminum oxide (4.13–38 %) and ferrous oxide (0.835–7.7 %), whereas calcium oxide showed the highest percentage (65.36 %) followed by silicon dioxide (21.83 %) in tuff soil. The results demonstrated that arsenic removal efficiency was higher in elevated aluminum oxide-containing akadama (0.00452 mg/L/g/h) and kanuma (0.00225 mg/L/g/h) soils, whereas cadmium (0.00634 mg/L/g/h) and lead (0.00693 mg/L/g/h) removal efficiencies were maximum in elevated calcium oxide-containing tuff soil. Physico-chemical sorption and ion exchange processes are the metal removal mechanisms. The critical appraisal of three metal removal data also clearly revealed cadmium > lead > arsenic order of removal efficiency in different soils, except in tuff and akadama soils followed by lead > cadmium > arsenic. It clearly signified that each type of soil had a specific metal adsorption affinity which was regulated by the specific chemical composition. It may be concluded that akadama would be potential arsenic-removing and tuff would be efficient cadmium and lead-removing soil sorbents.