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Japanese students get a taste of Halloween


Kids from Forest Groves sister city get a spooky welcome

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Itsuki Matsushita wasnt shy about arriving in America, donning a costume and asking strangers for candy last week. Ayane Tanaka and Itsuki Matsushita had never seen anything like it: ghosts, zombies, superheroes, nerds, ladybugs and flash-in-the-pan pop stars.

For the Japanese teenagers who arrived that morning from Forest Grove’s sister city, Halloween was a surprise — and not the only one their first day in America.

The students had never trick-or-treated. But Matsushita was not shy about picking out a costume from a bin at the community auditorium and diving head-first into the holiday. He happily dug into the candy bins offered by downtown merchants, always searching for chocolate. He couldn’t get enough chocolate.

Tanaka stopped every few feet on Forest Grove’s streets to take pictures of kids and babies with elaborate costumes — cowboys, candy bars, tiny pumpkins — only to let out a spirited scream when a gorilla approached her group, grunting.

“It’s even more than fun,” Tanaka said.

Nyuzen, Japan, and Forest Grove, Oregon, have been sister cities since 1988, and have been sending students back and forth for 24 years. Northwest of Tokyo, Nyuzen faces Toyama Bay and is surrounded by agriculture, but also hosts technical industries.

Before trick-or-treating, the Japanese students visited Washington Square Mall, where most of them chose pizza at the food court, said Sandra Garcia, a Japanese teacher at Forest Grove High School and Pacific University.

They also made a stop at Tom Epler’s buffalo farm just south of Forest Grove. “When Tom told them the bull buffalo weighed 2,400 pounds, their eyes got wide,” Garcia said.

Seeing a buffalo and eating buffalo for the first time were two more items they could check off their “American experiences” list.

A stop at the Forest Grove Police Department and a welcome by Mayor Pete Truax rounded out the day before the visitors met their host families.

Tanaka was looking forward to her home stay the most, she said. “I can’t speak very much English, but I want to try really hard.”