Janice Mirikitani read her poems at many community events.

The Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) in San Francisco posted the following message on July 30. Janice Mirikitani, former poet laureate of San Francisco, passed away on July 29 at the age of 80.


The Center would like to offer its deepest condolences to the family of Janice Mirikitani. Jan was our literary voice. She was named San Francisco’s poet laureate in 2000, but just as important, she gave her all to do everything she could with her husband, Rev. Cecil Williams, to make San Francisco a home for those who were most forgotten.

Jan wrote a number of poems about the Japanese American incarceration during World War II, and even took the time to write a few specific poems for the Center. One is inscribed in bronze at the Japantown landmark at the Peace Plaza; the other was one she recited at our “Journey to Tanforan” event in 2007 and the final piece was created to celebrate our golden anniversary of our sister-city relationship with the City of Osaka (see below).

Thank you, Jan. You will never be forgotten and we will continue to honor and carry out your words of hope, strength and love in the years ahead.

From San Francisco to Osaka

We are not afraid

A memorial to Janice Mirikitani has been placed at the foot of the Japantown Monument in San Francisco Japantown’s Peace Plaza.

of joy

spinning it, like threads of steel

sweeping arches of our

Golden Gate Bridge,

burnished like a sunset.

Beneath it, the wind with open palms

push ships through Pacific.

We are unafraid

to reach out

to nations

where homelands

are part of memory,


where form we have come

the transplanted, escapees, adventurers,

those who came with hands

like shovel, sickle and hoe,

cleared a new world

hands that delivered us,

generations of America.

We rise like waterwells,

spreading through this soil,

from all communities

built by our hands,

amidst tenements and teepees,

concentration camps,

towers of marble and steel,

streets as colorful as our faces,

this city of diversity,

and multi ethnic hands

reach in friendship’s clasp

to Sisters, nested in Japan.

We are unafraid of love,

and the light it brings us,

language is revealed of all nations,

as we begin in our listening

to know

what we hear.

The gates are opening,

our arms are a bridge, spanning.

The wind fills our sails toward

Osaka’s port.

The light calls out many flowers,

and our hands

like eternal camellias,

will blossom at her door.


This poem was created by Janice Mirikitani to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco-Osaka sister-city relationship in 1997.

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