Introduction. Jane's brother, Tom, and his wife, Kyoko, moved to Japan after he retired. They invited us to visit them over there, suggesting that October was the best time, and we decided to accept their invitation. We bought our plane tickets and 21-day Japan (green car) rail passes through IACE, the travel agency Tom uses, and left it to him to plan the activities for our three-week stay.
Because our flight from Washington's Dulles Airport was so early (7:30 a.m.), we made the two-hour drive from our house the evening before. That also allowed us to leave our car at the Fairfield Inn for the three-weeks. The savings on parking easily offset the cost of the motel.
Wednesday, 9 October. We were up at 5:00 a.m., had breakfast at the motel, and caught their shuttle to the airport. The United flight was on time and arrived in San Francisco at 10:00. We boarded our plane to Osaka at 11:30, and that's when the "fun" began. It was supposed to depart at 12:10, but it didn't. We finally deplaned at 2:30 p.m. while United continued to try to fix a mechanical problem. (One of the engines wouldn't start.) We sat around the airport another couple of hours before they finally canceled the flight, rescheduling it for the next morning. We were given meal vouchers and shuttled to a Best Western motel for the night.
By a stroke of good fortune, Jane started a conversation with the couple behind us as we waited to check into the motel. The wife was going to phone her mother, who lived in Osaka, about the delay, and volunteered to have her mother call Tom. A short time later, Tom called our room to verify our arrival time.
We were in bed at 8:00 p.m. (but 11:00 EDT, our regular bedtime). In a way, the overnight delay in San Francisco was beneficial in that it broke up the long flights from Washington to Osaka. However, we could have done without the several hours we spent at the airport before going to the motel. Also, of course, we lost a full day in Japan.
Thursday, 10 October. Another early start. We were up at 5:30, ate a light breakfast at the motel. (We were able to give half the food vouchers we'd received from United to a couple of Navy men with bigger appetites.) The flight to Osaka, on a replacement plane, pulled away at 9:20. The 11-hour flight was uneventful, other than a little bumpy weather. We crossed the International Date Line in mid-Pacific, making it Friday.
Friday, 11 October. We landed at Osaka at just after noon. The immigration procedure was surprising slow for any country, but especially for a modern developed one. We can only compare it to our experience in Moscow. Of course, we would pick the slow line. Other people who arrived 40 minutes after we did were through before us. By the time we got through immigration, the remaining luggage from our flight had been removed from the carrousel, and we had trouble finding it.
After this inauspicious start, it was great to see Tom as we finally emerged, 90 minutes after landing. With his help, we shipped our one large suitcase to his home, validated our rail passes, and caught the 2:18 express train to Kyoto. There we transferred to a local train that took us the few miles to the Hieizan-Sakamoto station. We took a taxi a few blocks to Tom's apartment, arriving before 4:00 p.m. We unpacked, rested, ate, and were in bed by 9:00. Considering the 13 hour time difference between Virginia and Japan, we were bearing up remarkably well, thanks largely to the layover in San Francisco. (Incidentally, Japan does not observe daylight saving time.)