Friends tackle earthquake relief with sumo

Fundraiser for Japan set for July 21 in Victoria

Friends Cheryl Mason and Manami Kamijo throw their weight around in padded sumo wrestling costumes. They are co-organizing Banzai Japan

Manami Kamijo’s wedding was more bittersweet than celebratory.

Missing from the James Bay resident’s guest list were two best friends who chose to remain close to their home in Japan in the aftermath of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and killer tsunami on March 11.

Given that communications following the catastrophe were so faulty, “it made everyone more scared about the earthquake,” Kamijo said.

The decimation of entire communities on the island nation covered media headlines for weeks, but the stories have since faded from the spotlight.

“I kind of feel everyone is forgetting this,” Kamijo said, adding that three months later her homeland is still in crisis mode and in need of support.

Rather than feeling helpless, she and good friend and Cheryl Mason are putting on Banzai Japan, a mock sumo wrestling competition and live music fundraiser.

For a donation, spectators can take turns battling friends on the mat in padded sumo wrestling costumes. Winners get three raffle tickets while the losers get one, making them eligible to win prizes such as restaurant gift certificates and gym memberships.

“It’s pretty awesome how generous people have been,” Mason said of the community’s support. Proceeds from the event on July 21 will go to the Canadian Red Cross’s efforts in Japan.

Doors to the Victoria Event Centre, located at 1415 Broad St. open at 7 p.m. Musical guests include Victoria-based Uminari Taiko drummers, Vancouver rockers Before Helen, Kozue Matsumoto on the koto, and Victoria-based Furusato Dancers, a Japanese folk dance group.

Tickets are $15 if purchased before Tuesday (July 19) at the Best Western Plus Carlton Plaza, 642 Johnson St., or $20 at www.brownpapertickets.com and at the door.

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