From left: Jason Fong, Helen Ota, Keiko Kawashima, Haruye Ioka and Merv Maruyama. Not pictured: Musicians Lisa Joe and Danny Yamamoto.

GARDENA — The Grateful Crane Ensemble presented “Sentimental Journey: A Nisei Life in Song” on July 9 before a packed house at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute.

Over the years, the Los Angeles-based ensemble has produced several nostalgic shows for primarily Japanese American audiences, including “The Camp Dance: The Music and the Memories,” “Nihonmachi: The Place to Be,” and “Misora Hibari: A Tribute to a Legend.” “Sentimental Journey” was first performed last summer at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California in San Francisco’s Japantown.

Soji Kashiwagi, playwright and Grateful Crane’s executive director, explained the purpose of the show. “To express our sincere thanks and appreciation to members of our greatest generation while singing over 20 of their all-time favorite Japanese and American songs.

“The songs and music, along with the stories and history, will be sure to bring back many memories — some happy, some sad — and will paint a picture of the Nisei’s lives in America, and how they paved the way for all of us to follow.”

Singers Jason Fong, Haruye Ioka, Keiko Kawashima, Merv Maruyama and Helen H. Ota were accompanied by Lisa Joe, musical director, on piano and Danny Yamamoto on drums.

Japanese songs performed were “Haru ga Kita,” “Yuyake Koyake,” “Otomi-san,” “Kitaguni no Haru,” “Yawara,” “Tokyo Kid,” “Kawa no Nagare no Youni,” “Koko ni Sachi Ari,” and “Ue o Muite Arukou” (also known as “Sukiyaki”).

American songs performed were “Sentimental Journey,” “Accentuate the Positive,” “Stardust,” “All of Me,” “Dream,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “What a Wonderful World,” “Everybody Loves Somebody,” “Unforgettable,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “The Impossible Dream,” “My Way,” “La Vie En Rose,” “Moon River,” and “Moonlight Serenade.”

Some of the songs were sung in both languages.

The performance drew a standing ovation and shouts for an encore.

GVJCI’s Main Hall was filled to capacity.

Grateful Crane recently took “Sentimental Journey” to Berkeley and San Francisco. Upcoming shows:

• Saturday, Aug. 19, at 1:30 p.m. at Watsonville Buddhist Temple, 423 Bridge St., Watsonville. Tickets: $35 plus fees. Info: (831) 724-7860 or Reservations:

• Sunday, Aug. 20, at 2 p.m. at San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin, 640 N. 5th St., San Jose. Optional pre-show lunch at 12:30 p.m. Info: (408) 293-9292. Reservations:

Grateful Crane’s annual fundraising dinner and show is set for Saturday, Sept. 16, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Nishi Hongwanji, 815 First St. in Little Tokyo. For more information, email or visit

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

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