It took me a while as a junior enlisted airman to prepare for (a) flying my family at personal expense to Japan, and (b) buying the required household goods to furnish a house. The Air Force provided neither for non-career people then, and I did not yet qualify in March 1965.
The wife and two daughters traveled commercially to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. I had to take a train into Tokyo and then make my way to the airport. But I first had to get to a train station, the nearest one being at Tachikawa City, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Yokota Air Base where I was stationed.
I don’t recall how I got from Yokota to Tachi City (too much other stuff on my mind at the time), but from there I rode the train to whatever Tokyo station was closest to the airport with the knowledge that I would have to get a taxi the rest of the way.
I left in plenty of time for the arrival and got to the airport way too early. One of the least pleasant experiences for me is to kill time in a transportation terminal and the Haneda Airport was no exception. Finally, their flight was announced and I hurried to the proper area to await them clearing customs. Finally, my family arrived, worn out from a long flight.
My original thought was for us to collectively reverse course, taking a taxi to the Tokyo train station, ride it back to Tachi city, and then get another taxi for the last ten miles to Fussa-machi where I had the rental house all prepared.
Quickly recognizing that everyone was too tired for that, I decided on going by taxi all the way home. In those days, it was considerably cheaper than it would be today, but it still was a huge expense. I don’t remember the cost – other than it wiped out all the Yen I had on me.
I do remember how the taxi driver zipped through Tokyo. At most stoplights, he would pull out and make a new lane directly facing the on-coming traffic. When the light turned green, he would roar ahead of the others to dart back onto his side of the road. It was a kamikaze style of driving that had me worried – until I realized that the other drivers would courteously let him back onto the proper side of the street.
Another unusual action of taxi drivers was when they were stuck in traffic, they got out to use a large feather duster to rid their hoods, tops, and rear decks of dust. Perhaps the were worried about the acidic effects of smog particulates. Something else that amazed me was that when cars were stopped, drivers would turn off their headlights. I guess that it was cheaper to repair a worn-out light switch than to replace a burned-out headlamp.
There is another story about changes to the payment method for on-base taxis at Yokota but that will have to wait. It is probably related to “military thinking,” the topic for next week’s Tidbit.