Yaeko Yamashita sits in her store worried about the disasters at home.

From Bi-Rite to the Tomato Tart, Mission residents are responding to the crisis in Japan with what they know best: food. More precisely, they’re raising money through food in two upcoming auctions.

At Laku, a clothing store on Valencia and 22nd streets, owner Yaeko Yamashita has been too distraught to do much more than put out a donation box.

Since news of the earthquake and the consequent tsunami and nuclear scare, Yamashita has been anxiously watching television. Her family in the south of Japan is OK, but she worries about the rest of her home country.

“Japan has so many problems now,” she says, holding the tears back. “What worries me the most is my son.”

Yamashita’s son, a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is due to go to Kyoto next month to study Japanese for six months. Kyoto, which is hundreds miles away from Fukushima, where the Daiichi reactor is located, was not directly affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Still, Yamashita is worried that her son may be exposed to radiation.

“The big worry for me is the nuclear issues. I don’t want to think about it too much.”

On Wednesday, the California State System joined universities across the country in canceling study-abroad programs in Japan. Other U.S. colleges are recalling students already in Japan.

“It feels heavy, it’s too much,” Yamashita says as she catches her breath.

Andy Tonozuka of We Be Sushi, on 16th and Valencia, agrees. He is also from Japan’s south.

“My family is OK but the rest of the country is suffering. There are sons, daughters, fathers and mother of someone I know, so it makes me sad.”

Tonozuka says that his family and friends at home are living in anxiety.

Both Tonozuka and Yamashita want do something to help. Yamashita will decide soon which organizations will get the donations she’s collecting.

Meanwhile, some of her neighbors in the Mission are organizing events.

The Tomato Tart’s Sabrina Modelle will hold a day-long virtual bake sale on her website on March 30. Potential bidders will be able to preview the baked goods a few days before. All items will start at the same price. The sweets will begin shipping the following week.

All proceeds will go to either Doctors Without Borders or the American Red Cross.

Modelle has recruited 35 food bloggers from United States, France, Canada and the U.K., including Mark Matsumoto of No Recipes and Linda Mueller of Salty Seattle.

She also recruited Kai Kronfeld, a Missionite foodie who writes the blog Nosh This and who sells his famed “bacon crack” (bacon- and almond-filled toffee covered in chocolate) on a food cart usually stationed at 20th and Valencia.

“We have gotten a ton of responses to this,” Moselle says. The food blogging community has embraced the grassroots effort, she says.

“One blogger even suggested to make a dozen cupcakes every month for a year!”

Fabric8 gallery will host a fundraiser for Japan on April 3. Organized by Shinobu Fumahshi, who ran the store Nisa at 19th and Guerrero for years, it features an art raffle, Japanese food and more.

Samin Nosrat, cofounder of the Pop-Up General Store, a flash mob of temporary eateries, has also joined the fundraising efforts, setting up another bake sale. The Bake Sale for Japan has locations all over the country, including New York, Seattle and Washington.

Nosrat’s bake sale will feature donated baked goods from home bakers and professionals. Also on sale will be art prints and T-shirts by Mission printer Able and Baker studio.

“We have gotten a great response from the people in the Mission,” Nosrat says.

There will be two bake sale locations in San Francisco, including one in front of Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street.

Nosrat also worked with Bi-Rite on a fundraising bake sale for Haiti, raising $23,000.

“Bi-Rite seems like a natural place to reach out,” she says. “It is a hot spot in terms of food.”

Nosrat has not decided who to donate the money to, but she is working with chef Sylvan Brackett of Peko Peko, who is half-Japanese, to research the right organization.

“It is a secret dream of mine to raise $100,000,” she whispers.

Follow Us

Fay Abuelgasim was surprised to find taquerias side by side with Senegalese, Chinese and Greek restaurants in the Mission. She thought they would only be Latin. The homeless people outside the 16th street BART station also amazed her. From Sudan, a war ravaged nation, she has seen poverty, but was not expecting so much in the United States.

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *