From left: Haruye Ioka, Helen Ota, Keiko Kawashima and Kurt Kuniyoshi of the Grateful Crane Ensemble. (Rafu Shimpo photos)

Nostalgic Japanese children’s and folk songs will come to life at “Natsukashi Doyo Melodies,” a community sing-along to take place on Sunday, Aug. 26, at 2 p.m. at Nishi Hongwanji Los Angeles Betsuin Kaikan in Little Tokyo and on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 3 p.m. at Orange County Buddhist Church.

Presented by the Grateful Crane Ensemble, this event gives community members a unique opportunity to come together in song, as well as share in the many childhood memories that these songs will evoke.

“This show is all about the songs and everyone singing together,” said Soji Kashiwagi, executive producer of the Grateful Crane Ensemble. “You don’t have to be a singer; just come with a lot of spirit and to join in on the fun.”

Some of the favorites to be sung include “Akatombo” (赤とんぼ), “Furusato” (古里), “Haru ga Kita” (春が来た), “Momiji” (紅葉), Yuyake Koyake” (夕焼け小焼け), “Donguri Koro Koro” (どんぐりころころ), “Momotaro” (桃太郎), “Hana” (花) and many more.

Kashiwagi pointed out that most people will remember their parents or grandparents singing these songs to them as children. That childhood memory, however, will be different for each person depending on where and when they were born.

“For a Nisei or Kibei Nisei, they might remember their Issei mother singing these songs to them on a California farm or a home in Little Tokyo. For Shin Issei and recent Japanese immigrants, their memories will go back to their ‘furusato’ in Japan,” said Kashiwagi. “The one thing we share in common are these songs. Whether you are Japanese American or Japanese from Japan, these songs are part of our culture, our history and who we are as people of Japanese ancestry.”

Along with the cultural connection, Kashiwagi added that studies have shown that music and singing alleviates stress, relieves depression and is good for one’s overall health and well-being. Plus, he said, it’s just plain fun.

Leading the sing-along will be long-time Grateful Crane members Keiko Kawashima, Haruye Ioka, Kurt Kuniyoshi and Helen Ota. Grateful Crane’s musical director, Scott Nagatani, will accompany everyone on piano.

Nishi Hongwanji is located at 815 E. First St. in downtown Los Angeles. Orange County Buddhist Church is located at 909 S. Dale Ave. in Anaheim. Tickets are $25. To make a reservation, call the Grateful Crane ticket line at (310) 995-5841. For more information, visit

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