Soji Kashiwagi

Soji Kashiwagi has written numerous plays, articles, columns and essays on the Japanese American experience, many of which have focused on the WWII imprisonment of the Japanese American community. He's a playwright, co-founder and Executive Director of the Grateful Crane Ensemble, a non-profit theater company based in Los Angeles, CA. With Grateful Crane, he has led three goodwill tours to Tohoku, Japan in 2014, 2016 and 2018 where the group has performed songs of hope and healing for survivors of the 3/11 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Updated March 2021

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Hiroshi Kashiwagi Goes to Washington

For my father, Nisei playwright, poet, and actor Hiroshi Kashiwagi, the journey up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the heart of Washington, D.C. was steep and arduous. Now 88-years-old, he moves much slower than he used to, but he was determined to reach the top, slowly, step by step.

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Because for my dad, a steep climb up some steps is nothing in comparison to the long journey he has taken throughout his life to reach this moment. From a small, country store in Loomis, California to behind barbed wires at the Tule Lake Segregation Center …

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community en ja es pt

Kizuna: Nikkei Stories from the 2011 Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

We Help Each Other

I’m not an expert on Japanese culture and customs, but as I observe what’s happening in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami I am confident that the country and its people will eventually recover and rebuild their lives because of one key concept and way of life that is deeply embedded in the Japanese spirit:

Otagaisama.” Helping each other, mutually.

More so than “gaman” (to endure), “shikata ga nai” (it can’t be helped) and phrases meant to inspire like “Gambaro Nihon” (Let’s Be Strong, Japan), Otagaisama was put to work immediately after …

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culture en ja es pt

Mochitsuki Tradition: Mochi Making the Old School Way

Like turkey on Thanksgiving for Americans, a “must have” for Japanese and Nikkei around the world on New Year’s Day is a nice, warm bowl of ozoni, also known as “mochi soup.”


But unlike Thanksgiving, where there’s no threat of bad luck or misfortune if you don’t eat turkey, ozoni on New Year’s is loaded with good luck symbolism.

Eat your New Year’s ozoni (so say the Japanese dating back centuries) and you will have good luck, longevity, and happiness for the rest of the year. Miss your ozoni and well…let’s just say that’s a risk most do not …

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"The Betrayed," Why Now is the Time

“Tule Lake, Tule Lake—that
was a name I dared not mention
spoken warily, always with
hesitation, never voluntarily...”

—an excerpt from “A Meeting at Tule Lake,” a poem by Nisei writer Hiroshi Kashiwagi

Growing up in San Francisco, I remember hearing my father first talk about camp at a community event held at the Buddhist Church in 1975. Unlike other Nisei, who preferred to keep the camp story buried deeply in the distant past, Hiroshi Kashiwagi, my dad, was out there telling it like it was—and he didn’t pull any punches.

His speeches were fiery, his poems angry and his …

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The Song Bird of Manzanar: Still Singing After All these Years

How fitting that the woman known as “The Song Bird of Manzanar” had a bright yellow canary sitting in her Orange County apartment—singing, of course.

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“His name was ‘Tori, Tori, Tori’” she said.

And together, the song birds sang.

Mary Kageyama Nomura, the Song Bird of Manzanar, has been singing for over 70 years, and still loves it.

“Except now, it should be ‘The Old Crow of Manzanar!’” she said laughing.

Perhaps it’s her infectious laughter and sense of humor. Or maybe it’s that in combination with her close-knit family and a lifelong love of music, but when …

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