John Muir Elementary School

John Muir Elementary School offers pre-school for special needs children. You’ve heard me talk about this before, they can be kids with autism, asperger’s syndrome, developmental disabilities, etc. The problem is that John Muir doesn’t have any form of play structure at the school. It is a barebones asphalt yard with a chain link fence around it. Kind of like something you would expect to see in industrial era Russian and not 21st century United States.

John Muir is a part of the Pepsi Refresh Contest where good causes can win $20,000 to help out their cause. I feel that this is a good cause to support. I have seen my daughter at school during recess and she has access to a lot of things to play with and a climbing structure. Children need to develop body strength and they can’t do that through only aerobic exercise of running around in circles. They need to challenge their muscles to help them grow.

They have until September 30th to be in the top 15 vote recipients and I’m sorry I didn’t hear about this earlier or I would have posted something then. There are three ways you can help and none of them should cost you a dime [unless you have to pay for text messaging.]

  1. Go to and click on the vote button and use your Facebook login to vote.
  2. If you don’t have a Facebook account you can go to the same link and create a Pepsi account and vote that way [even in addition to you Facebook vote]
  3. Text 108702 to 73774

This is something you can do everyday until the end of the week. Pepsi is footing the bill and not your local, state or federal government so the only money is coming from a large corporation. I urge all of you to do this right now and repeat it and pass along a link to this page so that they can get as much help as possible. No child should have to go to a school where they don’t have any place to blow off some steam during recess. The kids will be happier and the Teacher’s will be happier. Let’s see if we can make a change here.


49 Mile Drive: Japantown #3

It’s time for me to get back to the 49 mile drive and today, it’s all about J-Town as we called it in high school or Japantown. The Japanese who mostly lived in Chinatown in the 1800’s after the 1906 earthquake needed a new place to live and moved to the sandy, crappy, yet spacious Western Addition. In this area near Geary and Gough street started a Japanese community that came together to hold their own.

Starting in 1960 and finishing eight years later the major investing Kintesu Corp. of Japan’s American branch finished building a unified Japanese Culture and Trade Center that we know today as Japantown.  At the time of it’s opening it was the largest collection of Japanese culture for Japanese ex-patriots and others to experience. I remember it was a cultural stop for many of us as school kids to learn about Japanese culture that had been previously overshadowed by Chinatown.

During this time sushi wasn’t common place and about the only Japanese food people actually knew of in San Francisco was probably teriyaki of one form or another. Japantown opened up to the non-Japanese people who visited it a chance to discover yakitori, sushi, sashimi before they were common place. There was also the Kinokuniya book store where you could learn more about the culture and history of Japan in English or Japanese. It offered a wide selection of materials and is still one of the largest Japanese bookstores in America.

Most of us today think of Japantown and think of the Cherry Blossom Festival this month or the Nihonmachi Street Fair in August. I think of the Cherry Blossoms a lot at this time because you can see them around the city, not just in Japantown springing to live with their pink to lavender blossoms bringing color to the streets. Then there is also the Japantown Queen that is crowned at the end of the festival that make all the men in San Francisco drool.

Sadly though, Japantown hasn’t changed much since it opened. There are still great things to see there, but most of the stores within it for the most part sell very cheap looking trinkets that look like the stuff most people complained about in the 70’s as “Made in Japan” crap. The Kinokuniya book store is still there and while it hasn’t changed either, is still an good place to go. The food is still good, but it really isn’t anything to set it off from the tons of other Japanese restaurants around the city. What IS a great find is the Japanese grocery store there the Nijiya Market which will show you some things that you won’t find in your average grocery store even if it’s in a largely populated asian part of the city. There is also the Asakichi Incense Store that will show you that not everything that burns needs to smell like sandalwood and patchouli.

While it does need an update, there is a great deal of things to offer people who want to feel like they’ve taken a trip to Japan without having to pay the airfare. Check it out.

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