SAN FRANCISCO — The children of Nihonmachi Little Friends (NLF), a community-based non-profit child-care organization, will present their annual theater production and auction, “Dowa no Omatsuri: A Festival of Children’s Stories” on Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon St. in San Francisco.

The theme for the theater program will be “Help•Heal•Hope: Commemorating the One-Year Anniversary of the Northern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.”

Well-known community personalities June-ko Nakagawa and Benh Nakajo will serve as co-hosts for the theater program. Featured will be GenRyu Arts and the students of NLF, whose performances will reflect the commemorative theme.

The preschoolers will present “When We Wish Upon the Stars” and “The Lion and the Mouse.”

The elementary school-age children will perform “Jishin Generation,” a production about how the disaster in Japan changed the life of a high school student. The word “jishin” can mean both “earthquake” and “confidence.” Video footage from the disaster as well as the children’s current work to bring hope to students in Japan will be incorporated into their dramatic dance.

The NLF students organized a garage sale in early April 2011 to raise funds immediately following the earthquake. Currently they are writing letters of encouragement and hope that will be hand-delivered this summer by Washington High School’s Japanese National Honor Society to students at Tohoku High School in Miyagi Prefecture as well as to the elementary school next to the high school. The group will be led by teacher Tomokazu Morikawa.

A silent auction beginning at 12 p.m. in the lobby will precede the 1:30 p.m. show and will feature a special performance of Hawaiian music by award-winning musician Steven Espaniola.  Raised in Aliamanu and now residing in the Bay Area, Espaniola is a multi-instrumentalist specializing in ki ho’alu, (Hawaiian slack key guitar), ukulele, upright bass, and leo ki’e ki’e, (traditional Hawaiian falsetto). He has had the pleasure of performing alongside some of Hawai’i’s top entertainers, including Ho’okena, the Brothers Cazimero, and Ledward Kaapana.  In 2007, Espaniola was named “New Artist of the Year” at the Hawaii Music Awards.

A raffle and refreshments in the lobby will follow the theater show

NLF’s school-age program’s performance features choreography by NAGATA Dance, led by Corrine Nagata and assisted by Celine Alwyn. Nagata’s role as a teacher and contributor to the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American School of Dance, the National Dance Institute with Jacques D’Amboise, and the Dance Theater of Harlem has prepared her well for teaching all forms of dance and at all levels to a wide variety of students. Her skill, insight and professionalism have been praised at every level. She is a current member of the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards Committee and is on faculty at LINES Ballet. NAGATA Dance services nearly a dozen public and private schools in San Francisco, teaching over 400 students weekly.

Event Chair Sallie Palmer described “Dowa no Omatsuri” as “the highlight of the year, showcasing the children’s and staff’s unique talents on stage and bringing the community together.”

Executive Director Cathy Inamasu added, “The dedicated staff, children and committee volunteers are putting their creative energies into developing this special production this year to commemorate the one year anniversary of the disaster in Japan. In addition to raising operating funds for our children’s programs with proceeds from this annual event, we are actively soliciting donations for the relief efforts.”

NLF has been providing quality child care, educational programs and services for preschoolers through elementary school-age children and their families since 1975. Full and part-day schedules are offered to over 200 children annually with a Japanese bilingual and multicultural emphasis. Through government subsidies and sliding fee scales, affordable services are available to all families.

Tickets to the event are $25 in advance (two or more at $20 each) or $30 at the door; youth 5-17 years $10. There is no charge for children 4 years and under. Proceeds from this fundraiser will benefit the programs of NLF. Donations for the Japan relief efforts will also be encouraged and accepted at the event, with checks made payable to the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.  For more information, call (415) 922-8898 or email at

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