My parents were immigrants from Japan, so they were not “in the know” about Halloween and its colorful traditions and celebration. After our family returned from Tule Lake at the end of WWII, my parents were focused on getting their farming business re-established; this American tradition of Halloween was not high on their radar. 

I don’t know when they actually started to understand what “trick or treat” was all about, but I suspect they viewed the whole concept of wearing costumes as a sort of frivolity and American insanity. At any rate, it was around the time when I was in the second or third grade of elementary school that my parents understood they had a responsibility to allow their kids to join in the fun.

All the kids in my elementary school were asked to come to school on Halloween Day dressed in a costume, so my classmates came to school looking like cowboys, Indians, ballerinas, etc. As I think back, there weren’t so many ghoulish costumes of murderous monsters from horror movies during my childhood. 

I think my parents were in a bit of a quandary, not knowing what to do with my urgent request to go to school that day in some sort of costume. My memory is faded (this is over 70 years ago) but I seem to recall they slipped a happi coat over my clothes and sent me off to school as a low-key ninja. It felt strange and I felt self-conscious but at the same time, it felt fun and festive.

Later that evening, my younger brother and I, once again dressed in happi coats, went trick or treating, heading up the street where our neighbors lived. I remember feeling somewhat nervous because this was our first time to actually go trick or treating. We were only instructed by our older brother to knock on the door and when someone opened the door, to say “trick or treat” and hold out our brown paper bag and we would get a piece of candy. 

With a little bit of trepidation, we knocked on the door of the first house and a pretty and vivacious young lady opened the door. She was talking on the phone with a long extension cord and we could hear her say, “OK! OK! I’m coming!” She hung up the phone and told me and my younger brother, with an excited voice, “I just got invited to go to a great party, so I have to leave right this minute!”

She had several big bags of candy and poured the entire contents into our brown paper bag that we held out. In one stop, our bag was full! We were so surprised – and it was so easy!! I think we went to a couple of other homes and then walked home with our bag brimming full of candy.

For a few years after that, we made sure never to miss Trick or Treat, but it was never as easy as that first time!


Bill Watanabe writes from Silver Lake near Downtown Los Angeles and can be reached at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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