Pride Flag Is Raised Over SF’s Japantown

In an historic first, the rainbow flag symbolizing pride in the LBGTQ+ community was raised in San Francisco’s Japantown Peace Plaza.


The milestone June 4 event came about through the efforts of the Japantown Rainbow Coalition (JRC). Rev. Elaine Donlin, a Minister’s Assistant at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco (BCSF), is a board member of JRC and helped with the planning to get the flag raised.


The flag was flown in the Peace Plaza from June 3-7 to celebrate Queer and Trans Asian Pacific Islander Week (QTAPI Week) and Pride month.


“This flag is really more than just a symbol,” said San Francisco District Five Supervisor Dean Preston, who spoke at the event. “It stands as a testament to how we continue to be a city where all kinds of folks can seek refuge and seek a home.”


Rev. Donlin said: “It was such an honor to work with a wonderful group of Japanese American youth and seeing their vision of the Progressive Pride Flag flying over San Francisco’s Japantown come to fruition.


“Visibility is so important and having this Pride flag flying over our Japantown shows that LGBTQ+ people are everywhere, including in our families, our temples and our cultural communities, like San Francisco Japantown,” Rev. Donlin continued.


“And I was especially grateful to see the BCA folks come out in support of this event through their attendance: former Bishop Rev. Kodo Umezu and his wife, Janet; Rev. Henry Adams; Rev. CJ Dunford; as well as BCSF members,” Rev. Donlin said. “This was an historic day that we're hoping becomes an annual event.”


Rev. Donlin offered a blessing at the event as a board member of the Japanese American Religious Federation (JARF).


BCSF’s Jiten Daiko opened the event with a lively taiko performance.


The main speakers were author Marsha Aizumi and her son Aiden. Marsha Aizumi is the author of “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance.” Marsha and Aiden Aizumi have spoken at several BCA temples and have been keynote speakers in the BCA’s Shin and LGBTQ+ seminars.


They were followed by Dr. Amy Sueyoshi, the new Provost at San Francisco State University, who grew up at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple.


The Pride flag project was sponsored by the San Francisco chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) with community support from the Berkeley Chapter of the JACL, JARF, Omusubi, and the Buddhist Church of San Francisco.