"The Mission is full of energy"

Moeka Matsumoto came to the Mission from Fukushima, Japan. Yes, the same Fukushima devastated by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. UC Berkeley is hosting a leadership seminar for Matsumoto and 100 other students from the same region.  SoftBank/Sprint sponsored the visit.

Moeka’s first Burrito experience at La Corneta.

Matsumoto loved the “feeling of the neighborhood” she found in the Mission.  “When you walk down one street it is noisy and busy. Just around the corner is quiet and residential,” Matsumoto said. She loved all the murals and was especially taken by the designs on the Women’s Building. “The homeless people are a little scary. We don’t have any people like that in our area.  I think there are many in Tokyo but homeless people are an unusual sight for me,” she explained.

We met Saturday afternoon at Mission Playground with some other visiting students. Matsumoto asked for an explanation of the sign that read, “All adults must be accompanied by children.” Her host Tomoko Lipp explained the sign and its rationale.  Matsumoto replied, “We need that in Japan because sometimes we have strange adults hanging around the playgrounds.”

The girls were all chatting on the swings as all the kids raced around them. We asked them, “What would you like to do next?”

“Shopping!” came the unanimous response. A brief caucus declared that the San Francisco Centre on Market would offer the most options. We hopped on BART and moments later we entered the cavernous commercial expanse. The girls took off in all directions. Floor after floor they looked around and soon came back to me and in unison said, “We need cheap stores.”

The selection is beyond belief at Wen Yen Co on Mission at 24th

My response was quick…“Back to the Mission.” They loved the combination of Wen Yen Co and their neighbor the Artillery. Wen Yen Co has an expanse of merchandise all neatly stacked to the ceiling. “This store has so many different things,” Matsumoto said.

The young woman who was helping responded to a knapsack price inquiry with, “Just a moment, I’ll have to ask my mother.” After querying the price she returned, and in perfect Japanese, quoted the price. Now that is the Mission’s corazon. Next door at Artillery, Maria made everyone feel like they were part of her family.  An instant of intense Mission shopping resolved the Omiyage (souvenir present) requirements. Moeka liked Mission shopping because of the selection of quality and price.

Matsumoto felt like Family at Artillery

Then, we were off for pizza at the Pizza Shop on 24th Street. Following four slices of pizza and drinks we went down to Galeria de la Raza. Saturday was MAPP. The presentation was spoken word, an art form that was a little overwhelming. The perfect alternative to spoken word is pan dulce, isn’t it? We returned to La Reyna, the Mexican Panaderia, and picked up a variety of breads and returned to our base camp on South Van Ness. The Japanese students flew through the pan dulce and Mitchell’s Rum Raisin ice cream as if they had never eaten.

What was their favorite part of the Mission? They loved the family feeling, especially in the small stores.

George Lipp

Photographer and writer living in the mission

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