BEIJING - China on Wednesday mourned the death of Japanese film star Ken Takakura, in a rare expression of cultural affinity between the Asian rivals.
Takakura, best known in the West for his role as a tough detective in Ridley Scott's "Black Rain", came to prominence in China when Japanese movies were allowed into the country in the late 1970s.
He died last week of lymphoma at the age of 83, reports said Tuesday, after a decades-long acting career dotted with starring roles, often as a mobster or a police officer or other strong, silent types enduring hardship in the pursuit of justice.
"Ken Takakura is a witness to the history of friendship between the Chinese and Japanese people," one user wrote Wednesday on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.
Others hailed him as "Japan's last tough guy" and "a Japanese national treasure who loves China".
China's official Xinhua news agency on Tuesday described Takakura as an actor who "helped redefine the image Chinese males hoped to obtain for an entire generation".
"His iconic cool exuded on screen captured numerous hearts in China," Xinhua wrote, noting that Takakura's 1976 hit "Manhunt" was among the first Japanese films to be screened in China after the Cultural Revolution.
China's foreign ministry also mourned Takakura's passing, with spokesman Hong Lei calling him "a well-known Japanese artist to the Chinese people who made important and positive contributions to cultural exchanges between China and Japan".
Relations between Beijing and Tokyo have plummeted over the past two years amid disputes over a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea and Japan's World War II past.
A tentative sign of warming ties came last week when Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Beijing, their first formal meeting since coming to power.
In 2005, renowned Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou directed Takakura in "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles", which follows the journey of a Japanese fisherman and his dying son as they travel to China in search of the secret behind a local opera.
Zhang told reporters at the movie's Tokyo premiere that it was a "dream come true" to direct Takakura.
He posted a tribute to the actor on Sina Weibo on Tuesday.
"I don't want to believe it, but my old friend has gone," Zhang wrote. "I can only express my deepest condolences and wish him happiness in heaven."