Chris Weldon bio photo

Chris Weldon

A savvy software engineer and agilist, Chris slings code in C#, but has also been known for commanding fleets of systems. He's currently a Tech Lead at Wolters Kluwer.

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Happy new year! I know Melissa and I are having a good one. :-) I didn’t update the day before yesterday or yesterday because we were so busy walking around the streets of Kyoto and then falling quickly asleep when we got back. So, time to go back over what happened the past couple of days and to go over a couple of more things and thoughts on Japan while we ride on our last Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo.

The morning after our night at the Ryokan started okay. The shower was frigid up to the last 2 minutes and the breakfast was decent. We packed up our things and I got approval to leave our bags there for the duration of the day. We bought about $80 in souveniers (which we left behind) and went on our way. We were to meet up with Brookie today and he was going to show us around Kyoto (or what he knew of it at least). We walked the not so far distance back to the subway station. We bought our tickets and I made the first embarrassing mistake of the day: I bought incorrect tickets. I had been debating buying a 1-day pass around Kyoto, but Melissa said 1200 Yen was probably more than we would spend on subway tickets - boy was she wrong. Anywho, I then bought 2 x 250 Yen tickets (which I thought was just for subway). It turned out to be for subway, then bus. The gate closed on me when I put the ticket in and told me to see the attendant. He gave me my money back and we found out that we used the wrong machine. The other machines dispensed only subway tickets. We bought them and went aboard.

The second mistake was me going to the wrong station. I thought that we were supposed to go to Karasunemachi (because Brookie told us to meet on the Hankyu RR at a station ending in Machi). When we got there, I realized that we had never been there before and were at the wrong station. Melissa had meantime gone to the bathroom and came back to tell me the Zipper on her pants broke. This was crisis #3. So, I spent more money to hop back on the subway to go to Karasuma Oike station and change to the Karasuma subway line then go to Shijo, where the Hankyu rail line was at. We got on that and headed to the appropriate station to meet with Brookie, who was supposed to be there by now. Regrettably he was not, and when I called him I found out that he wouldn’t be there for another 45 minutes. Melissa was already in a bad mood, and I found out just minutes before I had forgotten to give the room key to the hotel! It was in my pants pocket and every minute that went by the more regret and shame I felt. When I told Melissa she got so pissed off at me she asked to be left at the hotel. This is just not turning out to be my day.

We spent more money to jump back on the Hankyu line to go back to the subway lines and yet more money to jump on the subway lines to go back to Keage station. The trip landed me at the hotel about 11AM, after we left @ 9AM. They weren’t upset, though. They seemed glad, more than anything.

More money, more trains, same location. Brookie was there, though. We called him when we got there: an estimated 40 minutes after he arrived. Taking the subways takes a long time if you have to go a ways. We waited for him to find us after about 10 minutes, then we went looking for a place to eat. We didn’t find one, but he told us if we could wait for a bit, we could eat at a noodle place that was very delicious & inside the Temple. We agreed to do so and went onward toward the temple. When we got there, we could see they were obviously setting up for a celebration. Tents and shops and FOOD STANDS GALORE were setup, but nobody was serving.

Brookie showed us the first thing in the Buddhist temple: washing away your sins. Holy water is pouring out of some bamboo faucet. 3 cup/bowls are laying upside down next to each of these, but not in the well. You pick one up, get some water, then pour over your right hand first, then left hand. Your sins are “washed away.” After Melissa and I had done that, we went to one of the many shrines. We put change in the box, rang the bell, and clapped 3 times; then, we prayed. All of which was an interesting introduction into Buddhism.

We proceeded upward to an area with a couple of ponds, plenty of artifacts & some open food vendors, and tons of pigeons. The fun part, came next.

Brookie found a bird food vendo and bought some for 100 Yen. He and Melissa started feeding them and the pigeons did something totally unexpected: they flew up onto Melissa and Brookie! Several pigeons at that flew up on them, some of which were climbin on one another to get food. I took lots of pictures and eventually Brookie let me feed the pigeons as well. At first they weren’t that receptive to me, but after a while they definitely flew up on me. Brookie and I then had a battle with one pigeon as far as which person the pigeon wanted to be the ‘pirate pigeon’. We had fun for about 20 minutes or so before continuing on to take pictures of Geisha, temples, shrines, and all sorts of cool stuff. All pictures will be posted in my usual photos location.

Brookie, Melissa, and I then sat down for lunch. This was after lots of shopping, ice cream, and checking out the temples. The soba noodle bowl they had was fantastic for the price: about 600 Yen. We turned the corner to find a holy drinking water well. Brookie insisted we try, so he and I stood in a line similar to one you would at Six Flags or DisneyWorld, and watched the people behind us buy the “Holy Water Bowls” because they didn’t want to drink from the cups the Gaijin drank from.

This brings me to an interesting thing to talk about. Brookie “coined” the term the “Gaijin Smash”. The idea behind it is we would do something so off-the-wall (and something nobody in Japan would dare do” and it would not elicit any response except shock from the local Japanese. Brookie said the ultimate Gaijin smash would be to take the cup of water you fill and instead of drink it, you would toss it under your arm pits and clean yourself with it. Because we were too chicken to do that, we decided instead to fill our cups, then clank them together while yelling “Kanpai!” (Japanese for Cheers!). We did that and Brookie said he saw one woman chuckle.

After the humorous and enjoyable time, Brookie and I decided it was time for a few drinks. We spent the next 30 minutes looking all over this one area of downtown Kyoto for a Japanese-style bar (Izukaya). We eventually came across one that was pretty upscale and decided to stop there. We had a couple of Nihonshyuu (sake in Texas) and then two glasses of Shochyu. My dad received a bottle of Shochyu from a friend of his and asked me to get it translated. George-sensei told me it was the poor mans, or common mans, drink. I should have taken his advise in the presence of Brookie, because he ordered it for us. When I tried it, I was appalled at how hideous it was. He busted out laughing telling me he hated the stuff, and I wasn’t too happy with him after that. We headed back to the train station and departed, to where Melissa and my next adventure began. Melissa was drunk when we got to the subway, so I had to hold onto her as we walked on the stairs. More money, more trains, back to the starting point.

[To be continued in Part 2]