FLIGHT FROM OSAKA TO NAGASAKI:
As I said above, I had assumed I’d take the train from Osaka to Nagasaki. It turns out this requires changing trains, and the train is only high speed part of the way, and it would have cost about 180 USD. So, it was both cheaper and faster to fly. I read somewhere that the Shinkansen is supposed to be extended to Nagasaki in the next few years.
I flew to Nagasaki from Osaka Itami airport. Similar to Milan and Washington DC, Osaka has three de facto airports. Osaka Itami is the old one, now for domestic flights only, close to the city center. Osaka Kansai is the new one, farther away from the center, with international and some domestic flights. And Kobe airport was originally for the city of Kobe, but it’s about as far from Osaka as Kansai is, so it’s also a viable option. The budget airlines have divvied up the three airports, so it’s worth checking all three for domestic destinations. However, don’t forget to include the cost and time of travel; Itami is not only closer, but cheaper to get to than the others. For my flight to Nagasaki, JAL had the best price (8500 yen - about 80 USD), and left from Itami to boot.
Domestic tickets on JAL work the way tickets used to in the US, but have not for many years. Remember when a reservation on a flight was separate from a ticket? You made a reservation, and then had a certain amount of time to buy the ticket. Now, of course, you have to buy right away; some airlines do let you hold an itinerary without booking, but they charge for this. For this JAL flight, I made the reservation, then had to pay for it in a separate transaction. I only got an email confirmation of the reservation, not the payment. A more sour note is that the JAL phone app for domestic flights is only in Japanese, so I had to - gasp - actually print my boarding pass! Luckily, I could do this weeks ahead of the departure, while still at home. (I used the Delta app for my boarding passes for my international flights, with no problems).
The stop for the bus to the airport was about a 10 minute walk from my hotel, and the bus took only about 25 minutes to the airport. The airport has a North and South terminal, and my airport bus made a big deal about making sure my bags were in the right section. It turns out this grandeur about the two terminals is a bit misplaced - they’re connected by passageway that takes only a few minutes to traverse.
At least at Itami, the security and boarding procedures are quite different from how they are now in the US or Europe. They really put the old foot down:
You must be scanned in at the security checkpoint 15 minutes before departure.
You must be at the gate itself 10 minutes before departure.
Don’t try these times anywhere else, unless you want to miss your plane. Furthermore, the plane departed at 9:15, and the posted start of boarding was 9 AM (and indeed, that’s when they started). Sure, it was a 94 seat commuter jet, but still, it’s been a long time since I’ve boarded a plane where they didn’t start the boarding process much earlier than that - no matter how small the plane.
For JAL domestic flights, carry on rules are strict, so I had to check my “carry on bag.” The carry on size limit for this particular flight was 35 x 45x 20 cm; my carry on is about 55 x 40 x 24. But when I got on the plane, I saw the reason for the tight restrictions - the overhead compartments were tiny, and my bag really would not have fit.
Nagasaki airport is small too (only 7 gates), and it’s about 45 minutes by bus from the city center. The bus station is across from the train station; you cannot cross at street level, but must use the overhead walkways. There are elevators to these, but they’re hidden - instructions are in my Nagasaki hotel review.
EDITED TO ADD: I forgot the most unexpected difference. Since I arrived with a boarding pass, my photo ID was never checked - not once, at security, boarding, or elsewhere!