The Grateful Crane Ensemble pays tribute to the unique hardships and inspiring contributions of Japanese Americans in our country’s history and continues the traditions of our Japanese ancestry through educational and entertaining works of music and theater to the Nikkei and broader communities.
To educate and inspire our fellow citizens about the Japanese American story of strength, endurance and perseverance, and to preserve our history and culture for our current and future generations.
What started in 2001 as a way to give back to Japanese American elders at the Keiro Retirement Home in Los Angeles has grown and expanded into a non-profit theater company that continues to perform for people throughout Southern California, up and down the State, across the country and as far away as Tohoku, Japan. With every show and event we do, we honor and remember the Issei and Nisei—our first and second generation grandparents and parents who have paved the way for the Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei and future generations to follow. With gratitude and appreciation, we tell their stories and sing their favorite Japanese and American songs, knowing that without their tremendous suffering and sacrifices we could not stand before you today. “Kodomo no Tame ni,” is what the Issei and Nisei used to say. It means, “For the sake of the children.” What they did was for us. What we do is for them.
Grateful Crane founded with first performance for Nikkei seniors at the Keiro Retirement Home in Los Angeles, CA. Founding members include Scott Nagatani, Soji Kashiwagi and Keiko Kawashima.
“The Camp Dance: The Music & The Memories” premieres at the Venice Japanese American Community Center.
“Camp Dance” performed at the Manzanar Historic Site, featuring the return of Mary Kageyama Nomura, aka “The Songbird of Manzanar” to the same auditorium stage she performed on as a 16-year-old teenager.
“Camp Dance” tour of California including sold-out shows in Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, Stockton, Sacramento, San Francisco, Watsonville and San Jose. Outside of California, “Camp Dance” was also performed in Phoenix, AZ, Klamath Falls, OR, Twin Falls, ID, Seattle, WA and Denver, CO. A shorter version of the show was also performed in Washington, D.C.
“Nihonmachi: The Place to Be” premieres at 100th Anniversary of San Francisco’s Japantown at the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern California.
Grateful Crane becomes an official 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.
“Nihonmachi” show goes on the road to Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim, Sacramento, San Jose and Salt Lake City, UT.
A series of Grateful Crane shows—“Camp Dance,” “The Betrayed” and “Natsukashi no Kouhaku Uta Gassen” is performed at the Japanese American National Museum’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum auditorium.
“Momotaro and other Wondrous Stories,” debuts, featuring the telling of Japanese children’s stories, “Momotaro: The Peach Boy,” “The Tortoise & The Hare,” “The Monkey & The Crab” and “Tanabata.”
Grateful Crane performs at the JACL National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
Asia America Symphony Association recognizes Grateful Crane with its “Bravo Award” at its annual gala dinner.
Grateful Crane celebrates its 10th Anniversary at its annual fundraising dinner held at Nishi Hongwanji in Los Angeles.
The “Grateful Crane Youth Singers,” made up of four young Nikkei women from Southern California, debut.
Cherry Blossom Festival of Southern California recognizes Grateful Crane with its Senator Daniel Inouye Leadership Award.
Nisei Week Foundation recognizes Grateful Crane with its Community Service Award at its annual awards dinner.
Debut of “Nisei Serenade,” our show featuring the Grateful Crane Youth Singers portraying Nisei singers and the songs they sang in camp.
Grateful Crane’s first Goodwill Tour for tsunami survivors in Tohoku and atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima, Japan.
Debut of “Misora Hibari: A Tribute to a Legend” at the James Armstrong Theatre in Torrance.
“The J-Town Jazz Club,” Grateful Crane’s show about when Little Tokyo became known as “Bronzeville” during WWII, was performed at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo.
Grateful Crane and Chef John Nishio present “Far East Feasts” as mini fundraising dinners for Grateful Crane.
“Nihonmachi” is performed in Portland, Oregon in front of over 800 people in one day, including 400 local high school, middle and elementary school students at a special matinee performance.
Grateful Crane celebrates its 15th Anniversary at its annual fundraising dinner held at Nishi Hongwanji in Los Angeles.
Second Goodwill Tour to Tohoku, Japan, with performances in Fukushima, Minamisanriku, Ishinomaki and Kesennuma.
“Growing up Sansei” (GUS) events debut, featuring a play reading of Soji Kashiwagi’s “Garage Door Opener” followed by a community discussion about JA family dysfunction with Dr. Satsuki Ina. GUS events held in San Fernando, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Sacramento, Oxnard, San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego.
The Grateful 4, Grateful Crane’s Yonsei Acapella group, debuts at the “Growing up Sansei” events at Nishi Hongwanji and the Orange County Buddhist Church.
Aquarium of the Pacific recognizes Grateful Crane with its Heritage Award.
Grateful Crane performs “Camp Dance” on a national stage at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Afterwards, Grateful Crane is featured in an NBC Asian America article which was viewed by people across the country and around the world.
The Grateful 4 and Friends Variety Show debuts at the Orange County Buddhist Church featuring Grateful 4 members Michael Murata, Aimee Machida Angeles, Lisa Horikawa and Emily Yoshihara.
Stay tuned for more!
Founding member, Pianist
Scott Nagatani studied piano with Nisei master, Nobuko Fujimoto. During his teens - numerous bands, jam sessions, internship at Gidra (community newspaper). In Chicago, after recovering from heroin addiction, he received a degree in electronics and with the help of family, relatives and fellow Sansei musicians, he got back on the path of playing music. He played and musical directed at East West Players from the late 70's to 2005. Musical credits include: Pacific Overtures, Christmas in Camp II, The Fantasticks, Company, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Cabaret, Little Shop of Horrors, Follies, Passion. From 1993-2008, he was musical director for the Children's Museum of L.A., composing for hundreds of children's picture books, which were performed theatrically for children across Southern California. He has been performing at Keiro nursing and retirement homes since the 1980's, and has been with GCE since its inception in 2001. He has performed in Japan as a soloist/band member, with vocalist Keiko Kawashima, and with GCE. 75+ music videos on YouTube (Sansay Music). Media composer: Living in the Story (biography of visual artist Patrick Nagatani), Kimono in France (Japanese travel guide), Enviromental Defenders (DWP children's theatre), Visas & Virtue (Cedar Grove Oscar-winning short film). Discography: Shaku Horaku-Diva Collaborations 2010-2013, I Saw Baachan Kissing Santa Claus, Nihonmachi, BookSongs, Celebrating Children's Books, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, East West Players Sings Sondheim. Other community music direction credits: JACCC, JANM, Nisei Week, Cold Tofu, LosAKAtombros (JA improv band).
Founding member, Singer
Keiko Kawashima is a professional singer, actress, dancer, and founding member of the Grateful Crane Ensemble.Stage credits include: A Seed: Ichi-Ryu Manbai; Misora Hibari - A Tribute to a Legend; Nihonmachi: The Place To Be; The J-Town Jazz Club; Sadako’s Paper Cranes and Lessons of Peace; Natsukashi No Kouhaku Uta Gassen; Project Momotaro; and The Camp Dance: The Music & The Memories. She has performed at numerous events on behalf of organizations including: Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center; Sakura Gardens; Nikkei Senior Gardens; Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles; Go For Broke; JACCC; JANM; Nisei Week; and, Nanka Mie Kenjinkai. In addition to her work with Grateful Crane, she has performed, recorded, and developed various projects in Japan. Through her bilingual abilities, she enjoys serving as a “bridge” between Japanese Americans in the U.S. and the people of Japan; and nurturing that connection through music and art.
Founding member, Playwright
Soji Kashiwagi has been the Executive Director and Playwright of the Grateful Crane Ensemble since its founding in 2001.As a playwright, Soji's works such as "The Camp Dance: The Music & The Memories" and "Nihonmachi: The Place to Be" have been seen nationally at JACL conventions in Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Chicago, and most recently at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Other works include "The J-Town Jazz Club," "Misora Hibari: A Tribute to a Legend," "Natsukashi no Kouhaku Uta Gassen" and the JA dysfunctional family comedy, "Garage Door Opener." Soji also wrote the scripts and Grateful Crane performed special presentations for the Go For Broke National Education Center's "Evening of Aloha" in 2013, and the Tuna Canyon Coalition's luncheon in 2017.
Internationally, Soji led Grateful Crane's Goodwill Tours to Tohoku, Japan in 2014 and 2016, where the group sang songs of hope for tsunami survivors living in temporary housing. Under his leadership, Grateful Crane has been recognized with a Bravo Award from the Asia America Symphony Association in 2010, the Daniel Inouye Leadership Award from the Cherry Blossom Festival of Southern California in 2011 and the 2016 Heritage Award from the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Michael Murata, University of California, Irvine
Nancy Takayama, San Fernando Japanese American Community Center
Cathy Tanaka, Fukui Mortuary, Inc.
Ashley Arikawa, The J. Morey Company, Inc.
Allen Goya, retired, United Parcel Service of America, Inc.
Jo Ann Hirose, Little Tokyo Dental Group
Kim Kandel, Ford Theaters (Kizuna Board Fellow)
Soji Kashiwagi, Grateful Crane Ensemble, Inc.
Lane Hirabayashi, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles