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Stream of Consciousness in Japantown, SF

Growing up both Filipino and Mexican in white suburbia made me feel a bit marginalized when meeting other Filipinos and Mexicans, I didn't speak either language very well, and so I was quickly dismissed as being one of them. I guess in these moments of being excluded from them makes me feel truly American.

In San Francisco’s Japan Town District, located above the Western Addition, you will find the 38 Geary bus that takes you across the city; Ocean Beach to the Financial District.

Japan Town sits right in the middle, on one of the higher topography points in the city, facing only Twin Peaks, with Russian Hill on it’s shoulders in the north. My inner map may be a bit off, as I am writing this from my passive memory having lived in the Richmond District for seven years before I moved downtown. Whenever I envision Japan Town, I have this image of myself sitting on the bus feeling the caterpillar slug over the downtown crest of Gough Street into the burbs of Laurel Heights and into the Sunset District. An interaction I passed everyday, but never fully can remember the details; slowly bobbing my head on the way home from a long day of retail work waking up just in time to get off at my stop on 6th Avenue…

I rode my bike that day, from my apartment in the Tenderloin. I was nervous I was going to hit some gnarly hills. It was rather easy along the McAllister bike route. I remember it being humid and gray; I was hungry and ready to chow down on some sushi and green tea ice cream.

We found a fun little sushi spot where each plate came out on a conveyor belt that wrapped around the restaurant and all you had to do was pick one up and start eating it. The plates were color coded, so yellow was your most basic sushi, and blue was fancier, etc. It was a fun little experience, I could tell it made everyone a little giddy, and perhaps a bit overeager to try everything, more than you would have if you just ordered off the menu. I guess that was all part of their plan…

There happened to be some festival that day, and my friend Sarah swore we saw a celebrity while we stood in line for the green tea ice cream. But I’m not good with pop culture stuff, so I just shrugged and she laughed at me…

And so, I snapped this photo, while this group danced to some Japanese war music; loud drum noises accompanied by abrupt coordinated movements. It was very energizing to watch, it made me think about my own ethnicity of my two mixed cultures, and my eagerness to be a part of both. Growing up both Filipino and Mexican in white suburbia made me feel a bit marginalized when meeting other Filipinos and Mexicans, I didn’t speak either language very well, and so I was quickly dismissed as being one of them. I guess in these moments of being excluded from them makes me feel truly American. America will constantly ask you where you are from, but where my mother and father’s blood originates from is foreign to me. I am from here, but here will always see me as a product of there…

..In this moment, I stood and admired how these Japanese dancers had their culture to stand by, and how their culture embraced them back.

The rest of the story… well, Sarah and I just drank a lot of tea and looked at a bunch of awesome Japanese stationery and trinkets. We talked about adult friendships how to break them off when they aren’t serving you well and how to recognize the good ones; we talked about the possibilities of moving out of the city or even to another state along the west coast – Oregon, perhaps…

It was a great day, highly caffeinated and full bellied.

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