Fond food memories and Japanese American gochiso are what’s for dinner as Grateful Crane and Chef John Nishio once again present the Kenjinkai Picnic Obento sale on Saturday, Nov. 12, from 3 to 5 p.m.

Introduced last year as part of Grateful Crane’s pandemic “to-go” events, Chef John’s specially prepared obento is a throw-back to the days when Japanese Americans would gather every summer at the annual kenjinkai picnic to enjoy community, good fun and great food.

“I would go every year with my family,” remembers Chef John, “But instead of running in relay races, my grandmother would take me from family to family sitting on their goza under the trees, and I would sample their foods.”

The “Issei flavors” and foods he remembers from those picnics are what Chef John will prepare for this year’s obento, including chicken teriyaki, salmon shioyaki, chicken karaage, shrimp with shell on, chashu, inarizushi, makizushi, kimpira gobo, green bean gomae, Japanese potato salad, nishime, tamagoyaki, kamaboko and takuan.

“The flavors of our ancestors are almost impossible to find in Japanese restaurants nowadays,” said Chef John. “This bento box will be packed with our heritage Issei and Nisei foods.”

Proceeds from this year’s obento sale will benefit the Grateful Crane Ensemble and its 2023 Goodwill Tour to Tohoku (northeastern Japan). Obento boxes are $50 per order and can be reserved online by going to Grateful Crane’s Square site ( or by calling (310) 995-5841. Pick-up will take place at Nishio’s residence in Pasadena.

“I’m really looking forward to preparing the obento,” said Chef John. “It’s my way of honoring our Issei and Nisei.”

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