Japanese actress Shirley Yamaguchi dies at 94

Japanese actress Shirley Yamaguchi dies at 94

TOKYO - Japanese actress and singer Yoshiko "Shirley" Yamaguchi, who was nearly executed in China at the end of World War II, has died at the age of 94 after a life as dramatic as any of her films.

Yamaguchi, who was born to Japanese parents in pre-war Manchuria, where her father worked for the railway, entertained Chinese and Japanese audiences posing as a Chinese under her assumed identity Li Xianglan (李香蘭), or 'Rikoran' in Japanese.

The actress, who formally went by the surname of her late husband and diplomat Hiroshi Otaka, succumbed to heart failure at her home in Tokyo on Sept. 7, her family said Sunday.

"She always stayed home in recent years because of her old age but led a normal life," a family member told AFP by telephone. "She watched various DVDs including movies and documentaries from other countries like China and the United States."

Yamaguchi was long regarded as Chinese after making her debut in the 1938 movie "Honeymoon Express" by Manchuria Film Productions.

Some of her movies at this time were seen as pro-Japanese propaganda, including "China Nights (1940)," in which she starred with Japanese heartthrob Kazuo Hasegawa, and she later expressed regret over them.

Arrested after the war as a collaborator, she narrowly avoided execution for treason by revealing her Japanese identity to the Chinese court.

Her hit songs included "Fragrance of the Night (夜來香)" and "Suzhou Serenade (蘇州夜曲)," which was banned in mainland China after the war.

Following her deportation from China in 1946, she relaunched her career in Japan under her birth name, Yoshiko Yamaguchi, and went on to star in Akira Kurosawa's "Scandal" and other films.

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