Grateful Crane Ensemble members Keiko Kawashima, Haruye Ioka, Darrell Kunitomi, Kurt Kuniyoshi and Jason Fong perform songs from the ’60s and ’70s.

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

“Back in the Day: The Sansei Show” was the theme of the Grateful Crane Ensemble’s seventh annual fundraising dinner, held last Saturday at Nishi Hongwanji in Little Tokyo.

Emcee Alison Minami.

Although Grateful Crane is best known for its shows dedicated to the Issei and Nisei, such as “The Camp Dance” and “Nihonmachi: The Place to Be,” Executive Producer Soji Kashiwagi said, “tonight we shift our focus to the Sansei and shine a light on the dances and the music of the 1960s and early ’70s. Some of you remember dancing the cha-cha at places like Rodger Young, Parkview Women’s Club and the Japanese Deer Park. Others will remember doing ‘The Swim,’ ‘The Jerk,’ ‘The Locomotion’ and ‘The Twist.’

“Our hope tonight is that the music and songs of the era will bring back the fun times and good memories of those days when young Sansei were coming of age, searching for their identity and seeking a place to belong. For many, the ‘Sansei Dances’ back in the day provided that place, and songs like ‘Hello Stranger’ and ‘Suavecito’ will take them there, just like it was yesterday once more.”

Performing in full ’60s-’70s costumes were Grateful Crane regulars Jason Fong, Haruye Ioka, Keiko Kawashima, Darrell Kunitomi and Kurt Kuniyoshi. The show included jingles — to the tune of songs from the era — for the show’s sponsors. Appropriately, the jingle for Fukui Mortuary was to the tune of The Zombies’ “Time of the Season.”

The centerpieces had a ’60s-’70s theme.

Skits covered such topics as dating, the elaborate methods girls and boys used to get their hairdos just right, and the Eastside-Westside rivalry.

Matsu Level sponsors: Kawaguchi Kihara Memorial Foundation, Yamasa Enterprises/Frank and Sachi Kawana, George, Ruri and Lisa Sugimoto; Tomiye Sumner. Take Level: Hiji Brothers. Ume Level: American Fish & Seafood, Linda Aratani, family of Fred and Michiko Dohzen, FIA Insurance Services, Fukui Mortuary, Hiroshi and Sadako Kashiwagi, Union Bank.

The program included a video of Grateful Crane’s recent visit to the Tohoku region to cheer up the tsunami survivors by performing and also building a “Playground of Hope” in Ishinomaki. Kunitomi offered his personal reflections of the trip, recalling how moved he was to see all the devastation but how glad he was to be able to offer help.

Emcee Alison Minami discussed Grateful Crane’s “Singing for Seniors” project, which will take performances to retirement homes, nursing homes and other facilities for the benefit of Nisei seniors who are longer able to attend public shows. The debut performance will be on April 10 at The Terrace at Park Marine Assisted Living Community in Pasadena.

The centerpieces had a ’60s-’70s theme, complete with faux 45 rpm records and junk food from the era, such as Abba Zaba candy bars and Bubble Up soda.

The event also included a silent auction, emceed by Minami and Gene Kanamori, with items ranging from Hello Kitty products to a basketball signed by Jeremy Lin. Bento dinners were provided by Maison Akira.

Dance music was provided by The Music Co., which consists of members of various Sansei bands: Dane Matsumura (bass) from Beaudry Express; Randy Yoshimoto (drums/vocals) from A Long Time Comin’ and Free Flight; Dennis Yokotake (keyboard) from Easy Living; Howie Hiyoshida (vocals) from A Long Time Comin’; and Mariko Nishizu (vocals) from Free Flight.

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

The Music Co. featured Randy Yoshimoto on drums, Dane Matsumura on bass, and vocalists Howie Hiyoshida and Mariko Nishizu.
Cousins Vickie Tani and Lisa Joe with one of the auction items, a Lego Oscar created by Oscar winner Chris Tashima.

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