About Us

Our Mission

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.

Notable Events for the Grateful Crane Ensemble



March 2018

The Grateful 4 Acapella Singers received a rousing ovation for its high energy rendition of our National Anthem before 19,000 fans at the Los Angeles Clippers Japanese Community night at Staples Center. Grateful 4 singers included Michael Murata, Aimee Machida, Lisa Horikawa and Emily Yoshihara.

June 2018

Grateful Crane’s musical director Scott Nagatani was honored with the Asia America Symphony Association’s Bravo Award for his many years of musical excellence and service to the community.

June 2018

“Growing up Sansei” was performed before 400 “pilgrims” from across the country at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage held at Klamath Falls, OR. Afterwards, the pilgrimage chair called our performance, “the highlight of the pilgrimage.”

Sept. 2018

Seventeen members and guests traveled to Tohoku, Japan for Grateful Crane’s third goodwill tour. Tour stops included public housing facilities and schools in Fukushima-ken, a nursing home and day care center in Miyagi-ken, a joint concert with students from Ofunato Junior High and a performance for children and youth at an Ofunato children’s home.

Summer/Fall 2018

For the first time, Grateful Crane introduced “Memories Concerts” for Nikkei seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Thanks to a grant from the JA Community Foundation, Grateful Crane’s Keiko Kawashima and Scott Nagatani performed nostalgic Japanese and American songs for seniors at Nikkei nursing homes. More than just entertainment, Grateful Crane learned that its songs and music can enhance memory, improve the quality of life and reduce loneliness and isolation among seniors living with memory issues.

Nov. 2018

In Oxnard, Orange County and Gardena, Grateful Crane performed first-time “Concerts for Caregivers,” thanks to a grant from Keiro. Entitled “Back in the Day,” the three concerts gave Sansei caregivers a much-needed break from caregiving, and allowed them to relive good memories from their youth with songs like “My Girl” and “Summer Sun.” “Back in the Day” band members included Scott Nagatani, Hiro Morozumi, Danny Yamamoto along with vocalists Keiko Kawashima, Brian Yamamoto, Kurt Kuniyoshi and Helen Ota.

Our Shows

Theatrical Productions

The Camp Dance: The Music & The Memories

Written by: Soji Kashiwagi

A musical revue featuring stories and vignettes from the floor of the Japanese American concentration camp dances, and the most popular songs from the 1940s swing era. “Camp Dance” evokes memories from camp in a fun and entertaining way, while educating our community and the public in general about the hardships the Issei and Nisei endured, and how they “made the best out of a terrible situation.”
Looking Back: 'Camp Dance' recalls life in Manzanar (2008)
Grateful Crane to perform Camp Dance at Arab American National Museum (2017)

Nihonmachi: The Place to Be

Written by: Soji Kashiwagi

“Nihonmachi” is a musical journey that tells the over 100-year history of California’s Japantowns, as seen through the eyes of four generations of a Japanese American manju-making family. “To know where you are going, you must know where you come from” is one of the key messages of Nihonmachi, as Japanese Americans and others have learned about our history, and the strength, determination and perseverance it took to get us where we are today.
Nihomachi: The Place to Be (2007)
Nihonmachi Performance Benefits Koban (2018)

Growing up Sansei-Garage Door Opener Readings

Written by: Soji Kashiwagi

Combining a reading of “Garage Door Opener,” a two-act, Japanese American dysfunctional family comedy/drama and a post-reading discussion facilitated by Dr. Satsuki Ina, “Growing us Sansei” (GUS) is a community event which entertains and enlightens Sansei and other community members about why we are the way we are, and the factors that have caused it. In the play, as the Sansei brother and sister sift through dozens of kamaboko boards and tofu containers, they discover items from their parent’s past that they knew nothing about, and in the process learn about what their parents went through in camp and after camp. In the post-show discussion, Dr. Ina talks about how the trauma of the Nisei’s WWII camp experience manifested itself in the way they raised their Sansei children, and how their collective “silence” about their camp experience was pervasive in the majority of Japanese American homes.
NBC Asian American Feature on the Grateful Crane Ensemble (2017)

Cast & Crew


Scott Nagatani

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).

Keiko Kawashima

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.

Soji Kashiwagi

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.


Masami Amakawa


Shows and Projects: Grateful 4

Masami Amakawa was raised in San Diego where she and her family of 6 would write music, jam, and record covers. She developed her interest in musical performance in high school when she and a group of friends performed for senior homes and community groups. While she is passionate about science and earned her Bachelors in Biology from UC Berkeley and her Masters in Business and Science from Keck Graduate Institute of the Claremont Colleges, she continued to foster her love for music through performing a cappella with the Cal Jazz Choir and Nikkei Choral Ensemble in college. As a shin-nisei, Masami loves learning about Japanese American history and culture through Grateful Crane and looks forward to continuing her journey of learning and gratitude through Grateful 4.

Aaron Shizuo Aoki


Shows and Projects: Kouhaku, Project Momotaro

Aaron Aoki is a fourth generation Japanese American who is thrilled and honored to be working with the Grateful Crane Ensemble. Having moved away to snowy Minnesota when he was just starting high school, he doesn't want to take the LA culture for granted, now that he's back. He performed at the 2009 Go For Broke Evening of Aloha, was in Alice's Jive Bomber Christmas, and can be seen regularly on Channel 18-2 in the Kamiya Insurance ad. He is proud to be a part of the community and would like to thank everyone for coming out to show their support!

Kerry K. Carnahan


Shows and Projects: Nihonmachi, Holiday Show

Kerry Carnahan is grateful to be performing with the Grateful Crane Ensemble family, and would like to dedicate her performances to her father, Frank H. Kawahara, posthumous Congressional Gold Medal recipient (MIS) and grandmother Yoshino Kawahara who bravely came to the U.S. in 1920 with dreams of providing a new life for her future family. Born in Tokyo, Japan, theater credits include: Edinburgh Fringe Festival- Land of Smiles (Soon Nu), Playwright's Arena's Cinnamon Girl (Praveena), Mark Taper Forum’s mainstage The First Picture Show with Estelle Parsons & Ellen Greene, Theaterleague & CLOSBC ‘s The King and I with Debby Boone (Lady Thiang), A Chorus Line (Connie Wong) and The Wizard of Oz with Cathy Rigby. GCE’s Nihonmachi: The Place to Be (Joyce). EWP: A Little Night Music (Mrs. Anderssen) Divas! & Divas vs. Tenors ONO, Sweeney Todd, Passion (Fosca’s mother), The World Goes Round, A Funny Thing… (Domina), Follies (Heidi Schiller), and Merrily We Roll Along(Gussie). TV: ABC's General Hospital. Music video: Bryan Adams. UC Irvine graduate (Dance). Proud mom of twins, Jackson & Carson. Thanks to God, Dan & Mommy, my heroes.

Jason Fong


Shows and Projects: Camp Dance, Holiday Show, Tuna Canyon

Jason Fong took "Intro to Acting 5" in college, and got hooked when he first got up on stage to do perform a piece about Jim Morrison. To this day, "The Doors" music still brings up warm feelings inside his heart. Acting credits include Pacific Overtures, Little Shop of Horrors, Cabaret, Merrily We Roll Along, Passion (East West Players); A Jive Bombers Christmas (JANM), and Camp Dance (Grateful Crane Ensemble).  He has worked with the Asian American theater groups: Cold Tofu, HereandNow, and the East West Players Theater for Youth. Most recently, Jason managed to watch all three "The Hangover" movies in one evening.

Loryce Hashimoto


Shows and Projects: Nihonmachi, Kouhaku, Holiday Show, J-Town Jazz Club

Loryce Hashimoto is excited to be a part of Grateful Crane. Thank you Soji and Keiko. Loryce has been in A Jive Bomber’s Christmas, Alice’s Jive Bomber’s XMAS Concert, Nihonmachi: The Place to Be, Natsukashi no Kouhaku Uta Gassen, J-Town Jazz Club and Shizzy’s Story (Enrichment Works). She has served as Voiceover Announcer and Japanese Dance Choreographer for the Nisei Week Pageant. She also performs Minyo with Minyo Station and with Matsutoyo Kai. Loryce has been part of the Japanese performing community and has performed in J-Town since she was a little girl. She is classically trained and has earned professional titles (Natori) in Japanese Dance (Buyo-Bando Ryu) and Shamisen (Nagauta-Kineya Ryu/Minyo-Matsutoyo Sato.) She has been active with the GVJCI Day of Remembrance Committee also sits on the Board of Directors for Nihon Buyo Kai. Loryce has also performed improvisational comedy, is a Voiceover actor, artist, and floral designer.

Lisa Horikawa


Shows and Projects: GC Next Generation Singers, Holiday Show, Grateful 4

Lisa Horikawa earned her Bachelors in Music from the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State Long Beach where she majored in Vocal Performance. Lisa’s passion for singing has grown from playing instruments as a kid and singing Motown in the car with her dad. She has graduated from Cold Tofu's Improv workshops and is the choir director at Orange County Buddhist Church. She's been a part of Grateful Crane for 6 years, participating in holiday shows, Nisei Serenade, and various fundraisers. She is very excited to be a part of Grateful 4 and can't wait to see what we do next!

Susan Haruye Ioka


Shows and Projects: Camp Dance, Project Momotaro, Kouhaku, Misora Hibari, Holiday Show, Tuna Canyon

Haruye Ioka has been performing in theater for over 25 years. Her favorite shows include "Pacific Overtures" and "Canton Jazz Club" at East West Players in Los Angeles, "Tea" at Syracuse Stage in Syracuse, New York, "Camp Dance, The Music and the Memories" with the Grateful Crane Ensemble, and Jason Fong's "Old People Play."

Yoko Ibuki


Shows and Projects: Nihonmachi

Yoko Ibuki is from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. She would like to dedicate her performances to her father who has since passed away. She says, "My father left me a message: “To live life fully and believe in what you love to do.” She has studied opera singing, Minyo and Japanese classical dance. She is now producing her own songs. She is excited to perform as an actor again in this story. It means a lot to her.

Leslie A. Jones


Shows and Projects: J-Town Jazz Club

Leslie Jones hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An actor and musician, Leslie started his acting studies here in Los Angeles at The Wilshire Theater of Arts, and continued studies at The Crossroad Academy, Expressions Unlimited and The Howard Fine Conservatory. Leslie has received awards such as The Los Angeles Weekly Award and the Drama Logue Award for Best Original Music for composing and performing the music for the play Indigo Blues, penned by the late Judi Ann Mason. Also Jones was presented with the N.A.A.C.P. Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Randall, in Matthew Witten’s original play “Washington Square Moves.” Leslie has recurred on Spellings, Beverly Hills 90210 and has appeared as guest star on numerous sitcoms. Leslie can be seen starring as Kenny Curtis, a smooth jazz saxophonist, opposite Antonio Fargas and Nia Peeples in the movie The Riff which won the Black International Film Festival Award in 2002. Leslie's latest project is an Indy film entitled Hood Brothers, that has been winning recognition at film festivals. For more info on Leslie's acting career visit: Facebook or IMDB under Mister Jones. Leslie and his band (Right Hand Rule) have released their debut CD on Itunes.com, Amazon.com, cdbaby.com and other on line music stores. Leslie’s goal as an artist is to continue creating music, characters and poetry, for all to enjoy.

Dian Kobayashi


Shows and Projects: Growing Up Sansei

Dian Kobayashi was last seen in Steel Magnolias at East West Players. She has performed for theatres across the country, including Pan Asian Rep (New York), International City Theatre (Long Beach), A.C.T. (San Francisco), Sacramento Theatre Company, Sundance Children’s Theatre (Utah), Barrington Stage Company (Massachusetts), Long Wharf Theatre (New Haven), Public Theatre (New York), Seattle Rep, South Coast Rep, Huntington Theatre Company (Boston), Syracuse Stage, Arizona Theatre Company, Berkeley Rep, Doolittle Theatre, and Mark Taper Forum. Her T.V. and film credits include: The William Coit Story, Donor Unknown, Baby M, California Dreams, Dynasty, General Hospital, Moving, Sibling Rivalry, Hot Shots! Part Deux, Drinking Tea, Ophelia Learns to Swim, and Family Gathering. She is pleased to be working with The Grateful Crane Ensemble and taking part in today’s community dialogue.

Darrell Kunitomi


Shows and Projects: Camp Dance, Nihonmachi, Project Momotaro, Kouhaku, Holiday Show, Sadako’s Paper Cranes, Tuna Canyon, J-Town Jazz Club

Theatre: A monolog using his uncle Ted Fujioka's letters from the 442nd; 2009’s L.A. Weekly’s Best Production of the Year, Best Male Lead, portraying Khim, a survivor of the Cambodian genocide, in EM Lewis’ Song of Extinction; reprised at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland. Direction: PCH, Car Plays, by Trey Nichols; Hotel Play by Jon Lawrence Rivera, Velina Houston, Paul Cizmar and others, The Betrayed, Hiroshi Kashiwagi, Mystery Play, Garrett Omata, Best New Play, O.C. Weekly Yearnings, Sachi Oyama; Honkies With Attitude, Matt Pelfrey, Newshoes, Sheila Callaghan, Best One-Act, LA Weekly, Milk, Michael Hemmingson; Nihonmachi, the Place To Be, Sadako's Paper Cranes and the Lessons of Peace, J-Town Jazz Club all by Soji. The recent Tuna Canyon benefit show by GCE was meaningful, as it told the story of our Issei pioneers and what they endured following Pearl Harbor. He has directed new play readings for Moving Arts and the East West Players, and Yuri and Malcolm, by Tim Toyoma and David Murayama. Film and television work, voiceovers and Hanashi interviews for the Go For Broke museum, past member of the Manzanar Committee, current board member of the Heart Mountain Foundation. He is working on a book about his uncle’s service and sacrifice. More than ever, understand the events of World War II.

Kurt Kuniyoshi

Actor, Singer

Shows and Projects: Camp Dance, Nihonmachi, Project Momotaro, The Betrayed, Holiday Show, Kouhaku, Sadako’s Paper Cranes, J-Town Jazz Club, Growing Up Sansei, Tuna Canyon

Recent credits include an Cox Communications Commercial, AT&T Commercial, Intuit Commercial, and a Microsoft Print Ad - Japan. Others include a PartyPoker.com commercial and a Flex Your Power PSA.  Theater credits include Little Shop of Horrors, Manzanar: A Story of an American Family, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Follies, Passion, Pacific Overtures, Broken Hearts, and A Jive Bombers Christmas, just to name a few.  The Grateful Crane Ensemble included such hits as Camp Dance, Nihonmachi, Project Momotaro, Natsukashi no Kouhaku Utagassen, The Betrayed, Nikkei Hit Parade and most recently The J-Town Jazz Club.  He wants to thank Grateful Crane for the amazing opportunities he's been given over the past 14 plus years and for his family who have supported him in his journeys.

Aimee Machida


Shows and Projects: Kouhaku, GC’s Next Generation Singers, Holiday Show, Grateful 4

Aimee Machida is a 2009 Nisei Week princess who has always had a passion for music and the arts. She acted in TV commercials at age four, sang in children church choirs, and loved singing her rendition of “The Little Mermaid” in the bathtub. Throughout high school, Aimee spent many hours rehearsing and eating lunch in the choir room with her friends from the Arcadia High School mixed Show Choir, “Chanteurs.” Her love for show choir led to a summer musical production at Citrus College, where she played Mrs. Ching in the lively musical, Anything Goes. In college, Aimee continued to sing with the UC Irvine Jazz Singers, performed in Madrigal Dinners with the UCI Chamber Singers, helped start an all girls acapella group, Clair de Lune, and danced with the UCI Latin Ballroom Dance team. Today, Aimee still loves to sing in the shower, but above all, enjoys singing to the Lord on her church worship team.

Merv Maruyama


Shows and Projects: Camp Dance, Nihonmachi, Kouhaku, Best of Grateful Crane, Holiday Show, Misora Hibari

Merv Maruyama has been privileged to perform with the Grateful Crane Ensemble during much of its 17-year history. He has also appeared in productions at the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco, San Jose Civic Light Opera and the National Asian American Theater Company in New York. Merv has appeared in over 20 productions at East West Players.

Junko Nakamura


Shows and Projects: Kouhaku

A native of Fukuoka, Japan, Junko is a professional radio personality, TV reporter and voice actor both in Japan and here in the U.S. In Japan, she was the host of Kyo mo Kaicho, Hogaraka Daihosou on Nippon Hoso that was the #1 radio show at that time. In the U.S, she hosted Bridge USA Radio on FM 106.3 Monday through Fridays live from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. She has also performed stand-up comedy in the U.S. at well-known comedy clubs such as the Laugh Factory, Comedy Store and The Improv.

Helen H. Ota


Shows and Projects: Nihonmachi, Project Momotaro, The Betrayed, Holiday Show, Kouhaku, Misora Hibari, Sadako’s Paper Cranes

Helen Ota performed with Cold Tofu Improv, the nation's premier Asian American comedy improv troupe for 25 years and served as its Artistic Director for 19 years. Helen is also the co-founder of Yes, And … Productions which produced the Los Angeles premiere of Adam Gwon's musical, Ordinary Days. In addition to Grateful Crane Ensemble shows, some of Helen’s stage credits include Ordinary Days, Songs for a New World, The Brahmin and the Tiger, Ching Chong Chinaman, and Manzanar: Story of An American Family. She also performed as a member of the Old Spice Mom Choir with Patricia Heaton from The Middle. Helen currently works for the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center as its Director of Donor Engagement & Special Events. She is also active in the community serving on the Board of Directors for the Nisei Week Foundation and as an Advisory Council member of Kizuna.

Shaun Shimoda


Shows and Projects: Kouhaku, Nihonmachi, Sadako’s Paper Cranes, Growing Up Sansei

Shaun Shimoda is originally from Kona, Hawaii, and has been back with the Grateful Crane Ensemble since 2010, and is glad to be back working with the GCE on Garage Door Opener. He has also appeared with GCE in Nihonmachi and the Kouhaku shows. Film and TV credits include: The Perfect Weapon, Kinjite, Ring of Fire, Street Crimes, A Time to Die, Blood and Orchids, Santa Barbara, and Days of Our Lives. Stage Credits include: Yearnings, Manoa Valley, and Mystery Play. East West Players credits include: Stew Rice, Leilani’s Hibiscus, Dance and the Railroad, The Taste of Kona Coffee, and Mishima. Staged musical readings include: Manzanar: A Story of an American Family and Pineapple Story. To the generations who came before… a heartfelt thank you. Shaun dedicates his performance to Dian, his soulmate and inspiration.

Fusako Shiotani


Shows and Projects: American Dream, Kamaboko Christmas, Kouhaku, Holiday Show, Misora Hibari

Fusako Shiotani was born in Hakodate, Hokkaido and raised in Nagoya. She made her debut as a pro narrator/voice-over talent in Japan, and came to the US to pursue her career. Her voice can be heard on TV, in the movies, on airplanes and through car navigation. Recent works include some popular feature films such as Planes, Wolverine, 47 Ronin and Gozilla. She was last seen on stage in Katana, Utsutsu, Natsukashi No Kouhaku Uta Gassen (2010 & 2013) and Best of Grateful Crane 10th Anniversary Show. She is also a black-belt in Shorinji Kempo, learning from Master Ted Uekuma, and a licensed kimono stylist, learning from Sueko Oshimoto of the Suehiro Kimono Agency. Fusako is one of Grateful Crane’s original members.

Miko Shudo


Shows and Projects: Grateful 4

Miko Shudo is a musician and board certified music therapist who was born and raised in Thousand Oaks, CA. She graduated with a degree in Jazz Studies from CSU Long Beach and obtained an equivalency certificate in Music Therapy from University of the Pacific. She most recently completed her clinical internship in music therapy at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles. She grew up attending Oxnard Buddhist Church and participated in Southern District Jr. YBA. In college, she took part in Sr./College YBA and is an attendee of TechnoBuddha Conference every year. Along with Grateful Crane, she has performed for organizations and events such as Azuma Kotobuki Kai, JANM, Buddhist Churches of America, Cherry Blossom Festival, and the Tanabata Festival.

Emily Yoshihara


Shows and Projects: Grateful 4

Emily Yoshihara began her musical career when she had her first koto lesson with Madame Kazue Kudo at the age of five. After a year, she continued lessons with Toshiko Matsuzawa and developed a special appreciation for the instrument the moment she realized she could tune the strings to play Disney songs. She grew up at the Orange County Buddhist Church where she found her calling in taiko. She has played with OCBC Daion Taiko, UCI Jodaiko, TaikoProject, Kishin Daiko, and Prota. While Emily is known for her love of karaoke and belting ballads in her room for her ears only (or so she thinks), singing is a relatively new musical endeavor. Currently residing in San Jose, Emily would like to thank her friends, family, and the Grateful Crane Ensemble for encouraging her by providing opportunities to share her voice with the community.


Gordon Bash


A native of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Gordon attended the University of North Texas for jazz studies and music theory, then moved to Los Angeles where he actively performs as bassist/vocalist and musical director/arranger/composer. His credits include Sundance 2018 as composer of original score for a six-episode TV-series docu-comedy The Mortified Guide, and as a finalist on America’s Got Talent Season 7 performing with William Close and the Earth Harp Collective. Gordon began working with Scott Nagatani in 2003 for East/West Players’ “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Passion” and later joined Grateful Crane running sound and playing bass. He is very grateful to be a part of the community and loves all his GCE family.

Lisa Joe

Flute, Piano

An accomplished flutist and pianist, Lisa teaches and maintains a vocal studio in Gardena and Huntington Beach. She has decades of experience performing, directing and producing musical theater, choral and concert productions. Following in the footsteps of her mother, the late Sue Okabe and her aunt, the late Michi Dohzen, Lisa has found her passion in teaching music. Special thanks to my family, Scott and Keiko. #neverforgeteo9066

Hiro Morozumi

Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar

Having studied under scholarship in the renowned University of North Texas jazz program, Hiro has won many awards including 3rd place in the Montreux Jazz Festival piano competition, Henry Mancini Institute scholarship, Down Beat Magazine’s Best Extended-Composition award, and Keyboard Magazine’s "Unsigned Artist of the Month" award. He has worked on stage with artists such as Duke Ellington Orchestra, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Tommy Campbell, Paul Jackson, Kana Uemura and Maki Oguro. He has released two solo albums and produces background music for the Japanese 7-Eleven chain.

Danny Yamamoto

Drums, Percussion, Taiko

Danny Yamamoto is a drummer, percussionist, Taiko player and one of the founding members of the Asian American jazz group Hiroshima.  Hiroshima has recorded over 15 albums and continues to tour throughout the world.  Along with many others, Danny has also had the pleasure of working with East/West Players, Nobuko Miyamoto, Kinnara Taiko, composer Hans Zimmer, bassist Nedra Wheeler, and The Grateful Crane Ensemble.

Production Team

June Shirozu Hayashi


June Hayashi was born in Longview, Washington, interned at Minidoka, Idaho and reared in Tacoma, Washington. Her participation is dedicated to her husband, Ken and her families, in memory of her mom, dad and brother (Mason.) Formerly an art teacher, needlecraft shop owner, and designer of rubber stamps. She is currently a weekly volunteer at Sakura ICF. She continues her artwork using her Japanese name Mieko. She was introduced to theater by Keiko Kawashima. Special thanks to Soji and the cast and crew. What a privilege it is to work with all of you.

Yoko Kagaya

Hair, Makeup

Yoko Kagaya has been working as a Key Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist since graduating from Hollywood Beauty College in Tokyo in 2000. She specializes in Beauty, Avant Garde, air brush and special effects. She is also licensed in cosmetology in the state of California, and recently opened Studio Beaut, her own salon in Glendale, CA. She has worked on numerous films, music videos, theater projects as well as photo shoots with top photographers from Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo.

Mitzi Toshima

Hair Design, Wig Master

Mitzi Toshima is a Kibei-Nisei who returned to the U.S. in 1952. After retiring from her beauty salon in 2000, she became involved with the Grateful Crane Ensemble working with their hair and wigs and helping with costumes back stage. Mitzi feels very fortunate to be involved with so many talented people and appreciates all that theaters present. Most of all, she respects the dedication of the writer, director, producer, cast and crew to thank our elders through music and laughter, and to teach the young how their jiichan and baachan’s sacrifices opened the door for us.

Board of Directors

2020-2021 Grateful Crane Ensemble Board of Directors

Chair of the Board of Directors

Michael Murata, Ph.D., Cedars-Sinai Medical Center


Nancy Takayama, San Fernando Japanese American Community Center


Cathy Tanaka, Fukui Mortuary, Inc.


Andrew Stranahan


Aya Ichida
Kim Kandel, Skirball Cultural Center
Jean Kawakami, Dental Hygienist (ret.)
Soji Kashiwagi, Grateful Crane Ensemble, Inc.
Mike Okamura, Little Tokyo Historical Society (President)
Robin Vanneman, CNM LLP - HR professional (Kizuna Board Fellow)

Historical Advisor

Lane Hirabayashi, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles