Veteran actor Morishige Hisaya died of old age yesterday morning after several months at a Tokyo hospital. He was 96. Born to wealthy parents in Osaka, Morishige started acting in amateur dramatics while a student at Waseda University in the mid-1930s. A stage actor for several years, he later became an announcer for NHK, working in Manchuria before the outbreak of WWII. His movie career began in 1947 and spanned more than 165 films. The 1952 hit “Santo Juyaku” led to a popular movie series starring Morishige as a company president and a sequel series called “Ekimae.” A natural comedian, he appeared in many television series and specials, and he headed the Japan Actors Union from 1982. In 1975 he was the first guest on the afternoon talk show hosted by Kuroyanagi Tetsuko, a show which continues 34 years later. Among his many honors, in 1991 Morishige was the first entertainer outside the field of classical Japanese performing arts to receive the Order of Culture from the Emperor. He suffered a heart attack while in Okinawa in 2002 but recovered. His final acting role was in a TV drama in January 2004.