Benefit Event Helps to Mend Japan

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Koshin Taiko performs.

Tsunami survivor Masako Unoura-Tanaka hugs Larry Collins of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's USAR Task Force.

SANTA MONICA — “On the Mend 4 Japan,” a benefit held April 26 at Tiato Restaurant in Santa Monica, raised $23,380 in gross sales, and the full net amount was donated to the Japan America Society of Southern California to assist victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, according to Franz Garcia-Chon, assistant to Catherine An.

Along with ticket sales, a silent auction and additional donations from attendees added to the total.

The host committee included Catherine, Hannah and Jacqueline An of House of An (parent company of Thanh Long and Crustacean); broadcast journalists Susan Hirasuna and Lisa Ling; producer Bob Yari; Dita Eyewear co-founder Jeff Solorio; and actors Melissa George, Kelly Hu, James Kyson Lee, Julia Ling, Yumi Mizui and Tamlyn Tomita.

Supporting companies included online lifestyle magazine MintCastle, NHK, Bloomingdale’s, One Hope Wine, Toki Doki, and Suehiro Kimono.

Garnering the attention and contribution of numerous individuals from the broadcast, fashion, and entertainment communities, the event mixed haute culture, cuisine, and music.

Performers included MoZella, known for her blend of soul, jazz and pop; David Ryan Harris, who has written, played and produced for the likes of John Mayer and Santana; DJ Prema; Wakahisa-kai, a traditional Japanese dance group; and Koshin Taiko, which practices out of the Venice Japanese Community Center.

Actor James Kyson Lee ("Heroes").

Cuisine was provided by award-winning chef Helene An and House of An’s newest garden patio experience, Tiato Restaurant.

Special guests included “Super Mario” Sepulveda, who has been dubbed the breakout star among the 33 Chilean miners who were rescued last year after being trapped a half-mile underground for 69 days.

Larry Collins was recognized for his work as leader of the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) Task Force, which went to northeastern Japan to find survivors buried in the rubble. He and his team witnessed first-hand the extent of the devastation. Although they had found survivors in the aftermath of quakes in other countries, in Japan they found only bodies.

Chilean miner Mario Sepulveda and friends.

A survivor of the Tohoku tsunami, Masako Unoura-Tanaka, attended with her husband, architect Ted Tanaka. Unoura-Tanaka, a member of the Japan Business Association of Southern California and the Asia America Symphony Association, was visiting relatives in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, when the earthquake struck. She and her aunt escaped the tsunami by climbing to the roof of a building, where they were stranded for 16 hours until they were rescued by the Japan Self-Defense Force. Back home, her husband heard from her briefly when the disaster struck, but had to wait for days to find out whether she was all right.

The Asia America Symphony, whose president is Ted Tanaka, put on a concert to raise funds for Japan relief on May 28 at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center Plaza in Little Tokyo.

Actress Kelly Hu ("Phineas and Ferb," "Hawaii Five-O," "The Vampire Diaries") with Hannah An (left) and Jacqueline An (right) of House of An.

Sumera Rokita, who is from Sendai, was on hand to talk about her devastating personal loss. She has been in Los Angeles for six years, working as an entrepreneur and studying at Cal State L.A. She lost six family members in the quake and tsunami, including her brother, whose body was found near the ocean. She also lost more than 20 friends. Although she has no family in Southern California, she said her friends here supported and encouraged her throughout the ordeal.

Rokita is organizing a charity event, “Hope for Sendai,” on Sunday, July 31, from 4 to 10 p.m. in the Eagle Ballroom on the CSULA campus with support from several organizations and businesses. (The date was changed due to the closure of the 405 Freeway).

The event will feature a kimono show, a charity auction, DJs and live music, an appearance by Miss Asia, live art by David Hinnebusch, drumming by Koshin Taiko, and a raffle. Proceeds will go to the Sendai city and Miyagi prefectural governments. Tickets are $20 general, $10 for students. For more information, visit www.hopeforsendai.com.

From left: Susan Hirasuna, KTTV news anchor; Sumera Rokita, who lost family members and friends in the tsunami; Masako Unoura-Tanaka, who survived the tsunami.

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