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Kabuki actor Kanzaburo Nakamura dies at age 57

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December 5, 2012 04:51 AM EST | AP

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TOKYO — Kabuki actor Kanzaburo Nakamura, who helped boost the popularity of the traditional Japanese art form, has died. He was 57.

The Shimbashi Embujo Theatre, where he performed regularly, said Kanzaburo – as he was known among the Japanese public – died early Wednesday of acute respiratory distress syndrome.

One of Japan's most famous contemporary kabuki actors, Kanzaburo also played roles in film, TV and stage dramas.

Japanese TV stations ran tributes to Kanzaburo, who won fame for his outstanding theatrical skills, both as a "tachiyaku" male actor and an "onnagata" female impersonator.

In July, he underwent successful surgery for esophageal cancer, Kyodo News agency reported, but later caught pneumonia. His real name was Noriaki Namino.