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Banquet honors Japanese-American students

For more than 60 years, the tradition of honoring high school students has continued for Japanese Americans in Portland, Oregon. In 2014, they celebrated the gifts and talents of 16 Japanese-American teens at their 68th-annual graduation banquet.

"We have been doing this a long time and have different generations of Japanese Americans," said the Rev. Anna Cho, pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church, one of 10 sponsoring organizations for the event.

The idea of having a graduation banquet began in 1948 when the pastor's wife, Misao Hayashi, wanted to recognize and honor high school graduates. "We not only honor the students for academics, but also for their athleticism and other achievements," said Julie Hirai, who helps with the banquet and attends Epworth.

Last year's event honored and gave awards to the graduates. The evening was full with a keynote address, pastor's remarks and encouragement for the students to apply for scholarships. The graduates also had an opportunity to speak about their aspirations and journey.

Embracing and keeping the Japanese culture is important to Cho, Hirai and Epworth members. "We celebrate Japanese festivals, eat Japanese food and display Japanese art at home," said Hirai. Epworth is the only Japanese-American congregation in Oregon and one of 16 in the United States.

They look forward to this year's banquet slated for May 3.

AT A GLANCE Epworth United Methodist Church | 1333 S.E. 28th Ave., Portland, OR 97214 | [email protected] | 503-232-5253 | Rev. Anna Cho | Average Attendance: 30 | Oregon-Idaho Conference

Christine Kumar  is a freelance writer an administrator for the Baltimore Metropolitan District of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church.


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