‘Peace on Your Wings’ Musical Soars to Little Tokyo’s Aratani Theatre

September 12, 2015 • Entertainment, In-depth

“Peace on Your Wings” premiered in Oahu in November 2014 and went on to enjoy a sold-out run throughout the island in January and February of this year. The musical features an
all-youth cast, ages 6-18, from the island of Oahu. Photo:  Courtesy of ‘Peace on Your Wings’

The musical opens in connection with International Peace Day — Sept. 21— and commemorates the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

By Connie Ho

According to Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 origami paper cranes is granted one wish.

In connection with International Peace Day (Sept. 21) and commemorating the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ohana Arts and the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, in partnership with Helen Bing, will present the North American premiere of the new musical “Peace on Your Wings” on Sept. 18 and 19 at the Aratani Theatre in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo.

“Peace on Your Wings” tells the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who survived the atomic bombings only to die of leukemia at a young age.

“Peace on Your Wings” tells the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who survived the atomic bombings only to die of leukemia at a young age.

The show is inspired by the real-life story of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who survived the atomic bombings only to succumb to leukemia at a young age. Sasaki became an international symbol for peace through her quest to fold a thousand paper cranes in hope of having her wish for good health come true.

“Peace on Your Wings” features an all-youth cast, ages 6-18, from the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Set in post-war 1950s Japan, the musical follows the lives of middle school students in Hiroshima. When one of them falls seriously ill, the children’s lives and their tenuous bonds unravel. But one girl’s struggle and dreams for a better tomorrow teach the children — and the world — about courage, love and peace.

The musical’s original score, written by Ohana Arts Artistic/Executive Director/Composer Jennifer Taira and Associate Artistic Director/Lyricist Laurie Rubin, combines modern pop with Japanese influences to create a unique, uplifting and inspiring show.

According to Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 original paper cranes is granted one wish such as long life, eternal good luck or recovery from illness or injury. Having survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as a toddler, Sasaki grew up to be one of the best athletes and most popular
students in her middle school.

At age 11, she was diagnosed with leukemia, or the “A-bomb disease” as it was then called, and she was given just one year to live.

Hoping to be cured, she and her friends began making hundreds of origami cranes out of needle wrappings, medicine labels and any other paper they could find, hanging the birds from the ceiling of her hospital room. When she reached 1,000, she continued folding for herself and others until she died at age 12.

Sasaki has come to symbolize the effects of the peace movement, and her death inspired a youth movement to have a Hiroshima memorial built in honor of the child victims.

“While ‘Peace on Your Wings’ features a cast of children, there is nothing childish about the message. The musical explores Sadako as an individual, a student and friend and addresses universal themes present in young people’s lives, powerfully told by the voices of youth, touching intergenerational audiences, while sharing the message ‘Ichigo Ichie,’ meaning, ‘Today is the first and last day of your life,’” said Rubin.

After its Los Angeles performances, the musical will travel to Washington, D.C., and New York City before heading to Japan for a four-city tour in July and August 2016.

“Peace on Your Wings” premiered on Oahu in November 2014 and enjoyed a statewide sold-out tour in January and February of this year. Due to popular demand, the musical returned to Oahu for an encore run of performances last month on the 70th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of both
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On opening night, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who was in attendance at the performance, officially proclaimed Aug. 6, 2015, the official “Peace on Your Wings Day.” The performance was also attended by Masahiro Sasaki, Sadako’s eldest brother, and his son, Yuji Sasaki.

Ohana Arts is a nonprofit organization that aims to foster world friendship and peace through the universal language of the arts. It was founded in 2010 by Jennifer Taira, composer, pianist and clarinetist; Carolyn Taira, director of the Hongwanji Mission School Performing Theater; and Laurie Rubin, opera singer and recitalist.

This summer, more than 80 students from more than 30 schools around the island participated in Ohana Arts programs.

For ticket information and prices, contact (213) 680-3700 or order online at www.jaccc.org.

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