Japanese tourists Toshi and Yuri Tasaka are squeezing in all the “average American lifestyle” experiences they can in five days.
Their do-list includes Starbucks, McDonald’s, Powell’s City of Books, Multnomah Falls and the Cowlitz Community Farmers Market.
And for their 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, a romp on a playground at Lake Sacajawea.
Monday morning, the residents of Wako City — Longview’s Japanese sister city — talked about post-tsunami Japan and shared a few early impressions of America through Longview translator Lars Pedersen of the Sister City Commission.
Toshi, 28, and Yuri, 31, are staying with Barbara Lancaster of Kelso, whom they hosted on a visit to Wako in 2010. This is their first visit to America.
“I am very interested in American daily life, such as leisure activities and meals, and the average American lifestyle,” said Toshi, a mechanic for Otis Elevators.
Yuri, 31, said she is “struck by the amount and beauty of the nature around here,” as well as how friendly everyone is.
Toshi is fascinated by cultural differences in homes, such as lamps and multiple exterior doors. He said in Japan it’s more common to have only one overhead light in a room and one entry door in a house.
He and Yuri, who handcrafts and sells baby bibs, were also astonished at the large size of their coffee cup at Starbucks.
Son Sasuke, 4, is a fan of Thomas the Tank Engine and was delighted that he could hear the train whistle from Lancaster’s home.
“Every time they hear the freight train whistle, he says, ‘It’s Thomas!’ ” Lancaster said.
Their 1-year-old daughter, Sasara, is already a big fan of American food, even pickles.
“She eats everything,” Lancaster said.
At home in Wako, citizens still are very careful with their food more than a year after the March 11, 2011, massive earthquake and tsunami that left 20,000 people dead or missing and damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Although the plant is far from Wako, there’s still “widespread concern” about radiation on food, Yuri said.
“Growers are themselves checking for radiation count, using lack of radiation as a marketing point,” she said.
“Radiation just doesn’t go away quickly,” Toshi said. “Everyone knows it’s very lasting.”
He said atomic power production is still at a halt, “but there’s been discussion about starting it back up again. There’s a lot of opposition,” even though rolling blackouts continue because of lower power production.
There are still frequent earthquakes, including one last week, they said.
She said many people from the affected areas still are unable to return to their homes, so Wako are other communities are continuing to help the displaced people by allowing them to use schools and gymnasiums as temporary residences.