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‘Nihonmachi: The Place to Be’ Performance Benefits Koban

The Kito family with the cast of Grateful Crane Ensemble’s “Nihonmachi: The Place to Be” outside the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo. (Toyo Miyatake Studios)

“Nihonmachi: The Place to Be” returned to the Aratani Theatre at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center on June 23 for the fourth time, presented by the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association (Koban) and the Grateful Crane Ensemble.

The production was a benefit performance to support the work of the Koban and Grateful Crane’s 2018 Tohoku Goodwill Tour set for this fall.

Brian Kito addresses the audience.

When the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region in 2011, Brian Kito, the LTPSA, Grateful Crane and the Japanese American community came together to raise funds for those in need in the disaster areas. Through his contacts in Miyagi Prefecture, Kito traveled to Japan on behalf of the Koban to aid and assist with ground relief efforts in the hardest-hit areas.

Grateful Crane also contributed to recovery efforts with a benefit concert in 2011 and two goodwill tours to Tohoku in 2014 and 2016.

Soji Kashiwagi, executive director/playwright of the Grateful Crane Ensemble, thanked the audience for coming out to support their upcoming Tohoku tour, scheduled for September.

Kashiwagi polled the audience and a hand count showed about 30 percent had seen the production before, with a surprisingly large number of first-timers.

The play tells the story of Japantown and the struggles and perseverance of family-owned businesses. Kito, president of the Koban and owner of Fugetsu-do, thanked the sponsors of the event and acknowledged current family-owned businesses in Little Tokyo.

Kito announced, “Fugetsu-do is celebrating its 115th anniversary this year. My family is honored to be the basis for the storyline of ‘Nihonmachi: The Place to Be.’ But the story also parallels a number of family businesses in the Little Tokyo community.”

The extended Kito family. (Toyo Miyatake Studios)

He continued, “I would like to acknowledge those that are here in attendance. Alan Miyatake of Toyo Miyatake Studios is the third generation of generations capturing generations, and his daughter April is the fourth generation.

“Kathy Tanaka, whose son Eric is now the fourth generation at Fukui Mortuary. Josh Morey, fourth generation of The J. Morey Co., has relocated to Little Tokyo. And Mickey Komai of **The Rafu Shimpo,** not here, but our media sponsor for the event at 115 years and three generations.

“And last of all, my son, Korey Kito, who just graduated from high school will start training as the fourth generation of Fugetsu-do Confectionery.”

Fugetsu-do hosted a mochi reception on the JACCC Plaza for the audience following “Nihonmachi.”

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