Four coastal British Columbian companies have formed a research and marketing alliance to promote BC hemlock in Japan.

Fronting the advertising campaign is a pint-sized Japanese sumo wrestler Mai-N-Umi who, despite weighing only 235lb, is renowned in Japan for his phenomenal strength. In the adverts aimed at Japanese homebuilders he is crouched on a beam of BC hemlock, renamed Canada Tsuga for the market, and the catchline reads “You have to appreciate unassuming strength”.

The research and marketing partnership was developed after the Kobe earthquake when hemlock-built homes collapsed, bringing generic North American hemlock into disrepute.

The research proved that coastal BC hemlock was stronger than second-growth hemlock from the US and its strength rating surpassed Japanese building standards – a comfort to consumers in a country where earthquakes are a regular occurrence