Members of the Grateful Crane Ensemble’s 2016 Goodwill Tour to Tohoku performed for these children at the Ohisama Hoikuen in Kesennuma. Grateful Crane will be singing songs from the tour at a free concert in Little Tokyo on Nov. 5. (Photo by Michael Palma)
The Grateful Crane Ensemble will be presenting “To Tohoku, With Love,” a free concert featuring songs from its 2016 Goodwill Tour to Japan, on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple, and its popular Misora Hibari tribute show on Sunday, Nov. 13, at the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center. Both shows will begin at 2 p.m.
“To Tohoku, With Love” will feature nostalgic Japanese and American songs Grateful Crane members sang for tsunami survivors in Fukushima, Ishinomaki, Kesennuma and Minamisanriku during their second goodwill tour held in June. Photos of the people they met and places they saw will also be featured in the program, as well as Grateful Crane tour members sharing their stories and impressions of what they experienced.
“Over a seven-day period, we performed a total of 12 shows,” said Soji Kashiwagi, executive producer of Grateful Crane. “We sang songs for people still living in temporary housing in Fukushima, children and youth in an orphanage and elementary schools, and seniors living in a nursing home that was built after their original one was destroyed.”
Even though five years have passed since the great earthquake and tsunami of 2011, the memories of the tragedy are still fresh among the survivors. And yet, according to Kashiwagi, the people have remained strong and determined to move forward with their lives.
“The Tohoku people really enjoyed the songs and music we performed for them, but more than anything else, they were deeply touched that we came all the way from America to be with them,” he said.
Grateful Crane tour members who will be performing in the concert include Haruye Ioka, Lisa Joe, Keiko Kawashima, Kurt Kuniyoshi, Aimee Machida, Merv Maruyama, Michael Palma, Helen H. Ota, Fusako Shiotani, and musical director/pianist Scott Nagatani.
A week after the concert, Grateful Crane will be bringing back its Misora Hibari tribute show as a fundraising event for the JACL’s Pacific Southwest District (PSW). Performed earlier this summer at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo, the show will travel for the first time to San Fernando Valley, where there are many fans of Misora.
The two-act show will feature over 20 of Misora’s greatest hits, including “Kawa no Nagare no Youni” (Like the Flow of a River), “Tokyo Kid,” and “Yawara” (Judo); and remembrances of a difficult time when Japanese in war-devastated Japan and Japanese Americans were struggling to survive after World War II. The show will also illustrate how “Hibari-chan’s” incredible voice, enormous talent and indomitable spirit helped to lift them up, and gave them encouragement and hope for a better future.
The show will feature the singing talents of Kawashima (who is also the director), Ioka, Maruyama, Ota and Shiotani. Musicians for the show include Nagatani on piano, Danny Yamamoto (of Hiroshima) on drums and Japanese percussion, and Hiro Morozumi on keyboards and guitar.
Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple is located at 505 E. Third St. in Little Tokyo. The SFVJACC is located at 12953 Branford St. in Pacoima. The Tohoku Tour Concert is free and open to the public, with donations going to charities benefiting the people of Tohoku. General admission for the Hibari show is $35, or $45 with bento. To reserve tickets and charge by phone, call Grateful Crane at (310) 995-5841 or (818) 899-7916. For the tour concert, reservations are suggested since seating is limited.