Last Wednesday I had planned to go to Hiroshima to have coffee with a friend of mine at 11am. I woke early enough to take my time getting ready. Since I had to be there by a certain time, I decided against taking the train. Plus I was excited to drive out there because this would be my first time driving to Hiroshima by myself.
I pulled up the address for Hondori Street on my Google Maps App and headed out about 9am. It was sending me a different route to get to the Sanyo (the toll expressway) but I figured it should be easy to figure out. The route said that it would take about an hour and fifteen minutes to drive there. I figured that would give me 30 minutes to park and walk to the coffee shop with time to spare if I get lost. About 15 minutes into driving I realized that the directions were taking me south towards Hikari and not north to Hiroshima. I pulled over and checked out the directions.
I saw that it seemed to curve back up another 10 minutes down the road towards Hiroshima. So I pulled back onto the road and continued on my merry way. When I arrived to the area where I was suppose to turn onto the road that was suppose to go towards the Sanyo I was surprised to see it blocked off for construction. I kept driving passed it hoping my phone would recalculate. Ten minutes driving up a mountain and it finally did. I started following the new route that kept me going up the mountain. It showed a turn off towards the Sanyo on the other side of the mountain. Another ten minutes later my GPS had me driving through a huge parking lot but it showed the Sanyo on the other side. I couldn’t see the Sanyo but I saw a booth that looked like the toll booths on the Sanyo on the other side of the parking lot so I believed my GPS. I pulled up to the toll booth and looked for the ticket machine. There was an old Japanese man sitting in the window. I looked at him and asked “Sanyo ticket?”. He started jabbering in Japanese to me.
“English?” I asked.
“Japanese?” he responded.
I replied with “No” while crossing my arms in a X shape in front of face (Japanese way of saying no). More jabbering in Japanese. I pulled out my phone showing him the GPS and said “Sanyo?” More Japanese… Another man walked over to the window. I asked him “English?” Even more Japanese while making the X in front of his face. So I asked him “Sanyo?” too.
“Hiroshima?” he respond.
“Hai” I said. Hai means yes in Japanese. More freaking Japanese. At this point it was 10am and I was worried I was going to be late since the GPS said I still had an hour left of driving time. I pulled through booth figuring I would sort every thing out when I got to the exit toll booth. I had pulled maybe 10 feet away when multiple Japanese men came running out of the toll booth towards my car. It seriously looked like clowns exiting a clown car there were so many coming out of a tiny building. I immediately pulled over. They all began yelling at me at once.
“Hiroshima? Sanyo?” I said pointing towards the road in front of me while holding my phone out the window.
“Hiroshima?” They started repeating.
“Shopping?” They chirped.
“Hai. Shopping in Hiroshima.”
“Shopping? Shopping? Shopping? Shopping?” they kept chirping. The remind me of the seagulls in Finding Nemo.
“Hai. Hai. Shopping. Hai. Hiroshima?”
“Shopping? Shopping? Shopping?”
At this point I remember the Google translator app on my phone. I pulled it up. I typed in I’m trying to get to the Sanyo to go to Hiroshima and showed them the phone.
“Shopping? Shopping? Shopping.”
At this point I was getting frustrated. So I said “Sayonara” (Japanese for goodbye). This time some of the men backed up from the car but they blocked the road to the Sanyo. I didn’t want to deal with them again so I drove around the toll booth and headed back to the parking lot and parked in the spot furthest from the toll booth. I replugged in the address to the coffee shop and tried to find the route I knew on the app. It told me it would take 35 minutes to get to Sanyo entrance. I sent a text message to my friend and told them that I would would 30 to 40 minutes late. When I looked up from my phone and notice that some of the guys walking quickly towards my car. I quickly put my car in reverse and got out of there. I didn’t need another round of the same two words being repeated.
It only took me 15 minutes to get back to the outskirts of Iwakuni again. As I pulled into town all the traffic slowed down to 5km an hour. The cars in front of me stopped at every single traffic light even if it was green. By 10:45 am I was only on the side of town when it should have only take 15 minutes. I pulled into a Joyfull parking lot to text my friend I give up. I had enough with driving in Japan for the day. I called up my friend, Danielle, remembering it was her birthday and offered to take her out to lunch. Lunch with her was very entertaining and much needed after my frustrating morning.
Lesson of the day- when going to Hiroshima by myself, take the friggin train and don’t rely solely on the GPS. Also I really need to learn Japanese.