The cast of “Misora Hibari: Tribute to a Legend” at Orange County Buddhist Church last year. From left: Helen Ota, Fusako Shiotani, Merv Maruyama, Haruye Ioka, Keiko Kawashima. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

“Misora Hibari: A Tribute to a Legend,” the Grateful Crane Ensemble’s fond look back at the life and career of one of the most popular Japanese entertainers of all-time, will be performed on Saturday, July 16, at 2 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo.

“When we did this show for the first time last year, we found out that many Japanese Americans have a very strong personal connection to Misora Hibari,” said Soji Kashiwagi, executive producer of the Grateful Crane Ensemble. “They listened to her records. They watched her movies. They are big fans of her to this day.”

Some have fond memories of attending overflow Hibari concerts as she toured Hawaii and the continental U.S in 1950 and again in 1973 when she performed at the Forum in Los Angeles, the Cow Palace in San Francisco and the Olympic Hotel in Seattle.

Misora Hibari

Younger generations and others interested in Japanese culture may not be familiar with her name but would probably recognize Hibari’s distinctive voice and songs – a familiar soundtrack for Japanese restaurants, summer festivals, karaoke singing and all things Japanese. Her prolific career spanned 40 years of continuous recording and film popularity as she began performing at age eight.

“After World War II, ‘Hibari-chan’ did so much to inspire the people of Japan that the Japanese government bestowed upon her a Medal of Honor. This show is our way of recognizing her for the encouragement and joy she gave to our people here in America as well,” continued Kashiwagi.

The two-act show will feature over 20 of Hibari’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.

Directed by Keiko Kawashima, the show will feature the singing talents of Kawashima, Haruye Ioka, Merv Maruyama, Helen H. Ota and Fusako Shiotani. Musicians for the show include Grateful Crane’s musical director Scott Nagatani on piano, Danny Yamamoto (of Hiroshima) on drums and Japanese percussion, and Hiro Morozumi on keyboards and guitar.

The Aratani Theatre is located at 244 S. San Pedro St. General admission tickets are $35 orchestra, $30 balcony, $30 for seniors (65+) and groups of ten or more. To reserve tickets and charge by phone, call the Grateful Crane ticket line at (310) 995-5841. Tickets can also be purchased at the Aratani Theatre box office or by phone at (213) 680-3700.

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