Vail event will raise funds for earthquake relief |

Vail event will raise funds for earthquake relief

Graham Danzoll
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado – Koji Kawamoto was in the United States when the Sendai region of Japan was hit with the devastating earthquake and tsumami on March 11. His first thought was to contact his daughter, who was going to a job interview in Tokyo that day.

“I was worried that she would be stranded since all the train systems had stopped,” he said. “I couldn’t reach her for a while. Eventually, I got a text message from her that she was OK and found a place to stay.”

Known as “The Pearl Man,” Koji Kawamoto has been coming to Vail for the past 12 years for his pearl trunk shows at Karats in Vail Village. In fact, the recent earthquake and tsunami are the reason he is back here for a special end-of-season show at Karats today through Sunday. Kawamoto is donating 20 percent of his sales from this show to help the relief effort in Japan and he is doing it in a unique way – by teaming up with Nigel Cooper, the development director of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, Kawamoto and Karats owner Dan Telleen are able to leverage Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s status as a nonprofit organization to give the donations from the show to a Japanese relief fund called

Nigel Cooper was in Japan with five local student athletes getting ready to participate in the Japan Cup when the quake and tsunami struck.

“When it happened we were on the main floor of the hotel in Niigata Prefecture preparing skis and we didn’t really notice it much,” Cooper said. “We were kind of giddy from all the travel and just being in a new place. About 30 minutes later though, the first aftershock hit and skis started sliding all over and the windows were shaking. We Googled ‘Japan earthquake’ and realized then the scope and gravity of the whole event.”

Cooper has close ties to Akira Sasaki, the Japanese Olympic skier from the hard-hit Tohuko region who, along with fellow skier Kazuko Ikeda, started Sasaki’s relief effort gained the world’s attention almost immediately because the quake hit during the European World Cup and press coverage was high.

When asked how he and Kawamoto eventually got together, Cooper points to Telleen and Liv Pierce, works at Karats.

“Liv Pierce’s son Zeke was one of the five student athletes with me on the Japan trip,” Cooper said. “Dan had already wanted to do something to help and since he has a good relationship with Koji ‘The Pearl Man,’ it just tied in perfectly with what we do here at SSCV. People can make the gift to the Ski Club and we’ll pay it out to SkiersHelping”

Kawamoto will be at Karats today through Sunday. The process for the 20 percent donation of sales is simple: customers can write a check (credit cards are also accepted) for 20 percent of the cost of their earrings, necklaces, etc., to Ski and Snowboard Club Vail and then get a receipt for their donation and then write a separate check for the remainder of their purchase.

Karats is located on East Meadow Drive next La Tour Restaurant in Vail Village. For more information on the pearl trunk show, call 970-476-4760.

It is not necessary to purchase pearls in order to contribute to All are welcome to view Koji Kawamoto’s collection and simply donate directly either at Karats or via the Web at

Graham Danzoll, who lives in Eagle, wrote this story for Karats.

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