Kabuki actor Nakamura Jakuemon, known for playing female roles and designated as a national living treasure in 1991, died of pneumonia Thursday afternoon in a Tokyo hospital, kabuki theater operators said. He was 91.
Jakuemon was awarded the Order of Culture, Japan’s most prestigious honor in the fields of culture and science, in 2004. The actor, whose real name is Kiyoharu Aoki, made his stage debut in 1927 as a child prodigy and became a “onnagata” female impersonator once his military service was over.
He pursued movie roles for several years, but eventually returned to kabuki. He was known for working to improve kabuki techniques and to expand international exchanges, and performed overseas, including in France.