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Adventures in Shiiba - June 1994
Erik Kassebaum

I went home to Petaluma California during Golden Week. While I was at home I was able to see friends and family; eat good pizza; go shopping; and drink a lot of good coffee. In addition to these things I was able to take two friends from Shiiba on their first tour of Central California.

Hisashi Kai and Naomi Yamamoto flew to California by way of Seoul Korea for a week of sightseeing and other fun activities (golf, wine tasting, etc.). One of the first things that Hisashi and Naomi had to deal with was "Jet Lag" because Japan is 17 hours ahead of California. After touring Petaluma's Main Street and a going out to dinner with my family to "Old Chicago Pizza" the guys went to bed to get some much needed sleep.

I picked the guys up in the biggest car I had ever driven. For the trip I rented a white Ford Lincoln Town Car. I rented the car for one week at a cost of $360 (37,000 yen). This rental fee included the maximum insurance possible, and free unlimited mileage. About seven people could sit comfortably in this car. As gas costs about $1.25 per gallon in California, we had little to worry about with respect to the vehicles fuel economy. However it should be noted that the car averaged 19 miles per gallon.

In American the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car and you drive on the opposite side of the road. Speeds are posted in miles per hour and the average speed at which one travels is much faster than is allowable in Japan. The average speed on most of the highways that we took was about 110 kilometers per hour. There are not many places in Japan where you can drive at this speed all day long, everyday. In our big Lincoln Town Car Hisashi and Naomi made many comments regarding the "scale" of California.

We did most of our shopping in and around Petaluma before we embarked on our trip. The guys were stunned by how cheap things were. Japanese prices for the same or comparable items (clothes, sporting goods, food, etc.) was usually 2-3 times what people in America pay.

We spent time in Monterey, San Francisco, Petaluma, and Yosemite National Park. Yosemite was quite impressive. While in the park we rented bikes and cycled around the valley. Yosemite was quite beautiful, but for me it was too busy - too much like a forest version of Disneyland.

Before we left Shiiba, Naomi and Hisashi told me that they wanted to see nature and to go to small stores and not to large corporate shopping malls or discount warehouses. I took them to some of the places where I like to shop, eat and relax. The California that they experienced on this trip was quite different from the California that Japanese tourists who go on package tours experience. By the end of the week both of my friends were starting to use the English that they had spent years studying and had a new set of views regarding life in America. If you see Hisashi or Naomi ask them about the steak house that we went to with my family on their last night in Petaluma.