Sumo wrestling night planned to fund trip to Japan

NEIGHBORS

March 03, 2000|By Lourdes Sullivan | Lourdes Sullivan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LIKE MOST high school clubs, Atholton High School's Kamakura Sister School Club raises funds to defray the cost of its activities. That's not unusual. But the club's latest fund-raiser is.

The Kamakura Sister School Club -- founded in 1992 and named for its sister city in Japan -- sends its members for a visit there every two years and acts as host to visiting Japanese students in the years in between.

This year, it's the Atholton students' turn to travel. To finance their trip in June, the club will present an evening of mock sumo wrestling from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 10 at the school. The wrestlers -- club members and other students are eligible -- find sponsors who will pay $50 or more for them to participate.

And since most high school students have not spent years consuming the enormous quantities of rice required to reach sumo fighting weights of 400 pounds or more, the club has rented sumo suits for contestants. The inflatable rubber suits include fake fat and muscle, along with the traditional abbreviated garments of sumo.

For those who prefer to sit out such an event, the club is selling $5 tickets for fans. That's cheap for anight of fun and lunacy.

Laurel resident Brandi Mullis is a junior at Atholton and president of the club. She isn't quite sure how the plan for the fund-raiser was hatched. Todd Marks, a math teacher at Atholton, volunteered to find out about the costume at a meeting of the club's adult sponsors, Brandi says. He wore it at a recent school pep rally for spring sports to drum up interest in the event.

Brandi traveled to Japan when she was a freshman at Atholton three years ago. She stayed for a week with the families of Kamakura High School students Mariko Sakurai and Ayako Kashiwabara, and spent another week touring with other club members.

"I kind of wished we had gotten more time with our host families," Brandi reflects, although shopping in Kyoto was a great deal of fun. "We were going to school [at Kamakura High], so there wasn't much time."

The school day in Japan is longer than in the United States, the school week is six days and the school year is longer.

"Sunday is the only time they get," Brandi said, "but they get out early on Saturday."

The tour of Hiroshima was the most moving part of the trip for her.

"We saw the museum of the atomic bomb and all of the memorials," she said. "When you leave there, it just kind of hits you that your country did this to them."

Last year, Brandi acted as host to Yuko Hoshikawo for a week in March. The Japanese student, then 17, was well prepared for the trip. She had taken English twice daily at school for several years, Brandi said.

Yuko was also prepared for the longer American weekends, although a three-day weekend because of a snowstorm caught her by surprise. In her part of Japan, it rarely snows.

Brandi's guest also was surprised at the number of cars on the road, and how heavily Americans rely on their vehicles in daily life. She was used to going everywhere by train, Brandi said.

But what most impressed the Japanese teen-ager was the shopping -- especially American supermarkets. She took several packages of Tostitos home to Japan.

Shopping also impressed Hiromi Yoshivawa, who stayed with Laurel resident Nicole McMorrin, an Atholton senior who is also a member of the club.

According to Nicole's mother, Maureen Davis, their Japanese guest is a lovely girl who played classical piano in their living room, gave them Japanese names and was unfailingly polite.

The family offered to take her to Japanese- or Chinese-style restaurants, but Hiromi preferred Italian and Mexican food.

The large houses and open space impressed both visitors.

Nicole traveled to Japan during her sophomore year at Atholton. She was impressed by how different it was to be "in a place that is all one race."

"I was the only one of a different race in a place where you can't read or understand what anyone is saying," she said.

Even though both Japanese guests spoke English, they were much more reserved than their American hosts, Davis says.

"When [Hiromi] thanked me for something, she looked down and stood far away," Davis said. "At first I thought she was angry at me. [But] that's a sign of respect."

Brandi and Nicole won't be going to Japan this year -- both have acquired cars and the financial obligations that go with them -- but the girls are helping with the club's fund-raiser so others can enjoy the experience.

"It's a neat program to see a part of the world they might not get another opportunity to see," says Atholton Spanish teacher Laura Cassard, a faculty sponsor of the Sister School Club.

The club's fund-raiser will be held in the Atholton High School gymnasium. Sushi and other Japanese treats will be available, and tickets can be purchased at the door.

New officers

The Savage Community Association recently elected new officers.

Charla Long is president; Ellen Waff, vice president; George Williams, secretary; and Myra Phelps is treasurer.

The directors are Mary Aber, Corrinne Arnold, Ed Cezar, Neil and Linda Doran, Bobbie Fairall, Mary Ann Gardes, Joe Long, Fran Morris, Sharon and Frank Spicher, Dennis Thornton, Bill Waff, Cathy Whitehead and Warren Williams.

Among them are some new faces and old friends. Welcome all.

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