Finding Shishi
 

The train bumped along over huge bridges and around tiny mountains. The stations got smaller and smaller as we got closer and closer.

When we finally arrived at our stop there was not much more than one of the ubiquitous Japanese vending machines and a tiny ticket office.

We were looking for a bus to take us to a boat to take us to an island. So we sat to wait. No one seemed to be in a hurry.

A man stood next to us holding a tuba.

After twenty minutes of calmly waiting, he turned abruptly for the taxis. The taxi bumper had barely rounded the corner of the square when our little bus suddenly appeared.

We managed to communicate with the cheerful driver that we were headed to Shishijima. He was baffled, but deeply charmed, and dropped us off in a parking lot with a wave.

We gathered what supplies we could from a 7-11 and wandered about looking for the ferry pier. Eventually we found a large Wes Anderson level stylish map of the surrounding islands, chock full of helpful ferry information we couldn’t read. Like ancient astrologers interpreting the heavens, we pointed, discussed, and took wildly unfounded leaps of logic.

Google Translate won't help you here. Not that we didn't try. 

Google Translate won't help you here. Not that we didn't try. 

Just then, our knight in shining white sneakers rolled up with a walker packed with groceries and a bouquet of flowers and started speaking rapidly in Japanese. Observing our uncomprehending faces, the tiny woman slowed down, repeating each syllable like you would to a toddler. Since our Japanese didn’t extend beyond arigato and sushi, this didn’t help much.

A dock made for waiting

A dock made for waiting

Through a patchwork of charades and Google Translate, we managed to communicate that 1. We spoke absolutely no Japanese and 2. We were waiting for the ferry to Shishijima. All we understood in return was that Google Translate was doing a laughable job. We all sat on the pier together, waiting, and periodically she’d roll over to deliver a well-intentioned yet incomprehensible monologue.

We sat in the open back of the boat like weirdos. 

We sat in the open back of the boat like weirdos. 

Eventually, the ferry did arrive, and she ushered us aboard, clearly discussing our improbable presence with the captain and fellow passengers. Half an hour later, we were being ushered onto a pier on a tiny island, cheerfully waved off by everyone on the boat. A small welcoming committee smilingly led us to island’s only restaurant, a little cafe just off the pier, where the rest of the island’s population had gathered to meet us.