Saturday, May 6.  Two things are dictating our Saturday morning.  One, Avalon has to go see the doctor about her big toe that has been bothering her.  I may have already mentioned somewhere that she had an ingrown toenail on her other foot and she thinks it’s the same thing, different toe.

Two, Jun has to catch a plane from Itami to Tokyo and on to Baltimore, Maryland later today.  We’ve been practicing how to say, “Hilton,” with him.  He said when he stayed at a Hilton in Australia, whenever he said to the taxi driver, or anyone else, that he was staying at the Hilton, no one could understand him.  It’s “hill-tuh-n” not “he-rue-toe-n.”

While I’m at the doctor with Avalon, John is taking Mayumi and company to Senri Chuo for the next stop in their adventure.  We’re going to meet them at Universal Studios Japan tomorrow.  The doctor says that yes, Avalon’s right toenail is also ingrown, and furthermore it’s got an infection.  But he says he’s too busy today so we have to make an appointment to come back next Saturday to get it cut out.  It looks swollen and painful and I’m thinking about how Avalon is going to miss a lot of activities, once again.  The upside is that now she (and everyone else) has a free afternoon today.  Homework, gaming, arcade, cleaning, laundry… it’s a free day to catch up.  Halyard decides to catch the train downtown and try to hook up with Nanamichan (Mayumi’s daughter) and some of her family.  They’re shopping and wandering around Namba today.

In the evening we’re meeting our friends from the international school for dinner and drinks at a tiny bar near the Minoh train station.  It only has two tables.  There are 7 of us so we’ll take up a good chunk of space here.  They serve Minoh Beer on tap and they make their own Yuzu (citrus) sausages from what I’m told.  Sarah, the school’s librarian, is looking for a sitter for her young kids so that she can come too.  I call up Halyard to see if he wants to earn some money.  Yes, he does.  So he comes home and babysits Sarah’s kids.  They’re twins and in kindergarten.  I’ve heard they’re mischievous!

Avalon has now been invited to her friend’s house for a sleepover.  Avalon and her friend Sofia decided they wanted to have a sleepover but neither one of them could host it at their houses.  So they got on their group chat and asked, Who can have us over for a sleepover?  Their school friend Haruna said they could come over.  Haruna’s mother came and picked Avalon up at 4 so she’s taken care of now.  Kaiyo can be in charge of himself tonight.  It’s a win-win all the way around.  Later Halyard says he finally has some extra money.

One of the highlights of the evening for me is going to the toilet (they don’t say bathroom in Japan because the bathroom is a separate room where the bath is).  Painted on the wall are some hilarious illustrations for using the toilet.  All through Asia there have been the most amusing signs for using toilets, but this one takes the cake.  We all sit around and joke about these painted pictures on the wall.

The photo with the pig is painted on the wall above the toilet.  It is very large.  It emphasizes the instructions for sitting on the toilet only.  No standing and no putting your feet on the toilet seat and squatting there.  The other photo is a sticker on the toilet seat cover.  It also illustrates that you should sit down and not stand up.  Also, put down that toilet seat.  GOOD!!  Do not leave the toilet lid up.  NO!!  These pictures take the cake on toilet directions.  And I love how you do not need to read to understand this message.

I have to get my toilet blog post written soon.  It’s been on my mind for months.  I’ve been taking photos of toilets everywhere we go.

Sunday, May 7, we are heading to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) to meet Mayumi and her family.  Halyard and Kaiyo are already on their way, they left early around 8am.  Kaiyo is pretty good with the route to USJ, which involves two train transfers, including walking to a different station in Umeda.  It takes about an hour!  They both have their phones so I’m not too worried about them going on their own.  John has decided to skip USJ today.  He says he’s going to wait for Avalon to get home from her sleepover and he wants to have a relaxing day.

I got out the door around 10am and when I finally arrive at USJ, the whole gang is together and waiting for me in the new Minion Park area.  USJ is fun as always, especially with people to share the day with.  Mayumi has 5 express passes that are good on certain rides.  But not all of her kids want to ride the same things so sometimes she gives the extra tickets to Halyard and Kaiyo.  Her family does not like rides that are dark, dizzy, or have long, fast drops.  That’s actually kind of limiting in a place like this!

Since I have toilets on the mind, I want to mention here that in the bathrooms (toilets really) in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, at least on the girls’ side, Moaning Myrtle is in there.  She’s piped in through speakers moaning about and whining.  You have to read the book to understand.  Or maybe see the movie, too.  
Even though it’s the end of Golden Week it isn’t as crowded as I had feared.  The new Minion Park only opened 2 weeks ago so maybe everyone is concentrated in there.  The lines are tolerable and the only line we had to bail out on is the VR ride based on the anime Evangelion.  Mayumi and family left after dark, then Halyard left to work on homework.  Kaiyo and I finished up with the Dragon Quest experience and got home around 21:00 (9pm)!  What a long day!

Our Golden Week fun extends into Monday, May 8 when I find out that my brother Grant is coming for a visit to our house!  So exciting!  He’s making his way around SE Asia with his film making buddies.  They came for a film festival in the Philippines and a bit of media tour in Hong Kong, then flew through Taipei and Tokyo on the way home.  Since it’s a Monday we just can’t travel to Tokyo, which is 4+ hours by train.  So Grant surprised us and bought a ticket to Osaka.  He’s arriving this afternoon and we’re going to pick him up at Itami Airport.

Uncle Grant is in the house!  I can’t believe he made it to Osaka.  I asked if he wanted to go out for sushi or stay in for Japanese curry and rice.  He picked stay in with curry.  So I’ve been shopping, making food and getting ready this afternoon.  He brought a fidget spinner for the kids.  They’re thrilled but it’s an annoying toy.  After dinner we told him all about Osaka and ate the Royce chocolate and Tokyo Banana treats that Mayumi’s family brought.The next morning the kids have to say good bye to Uncle Grant and head to school.  He has to fly back to Tokyo before they’ll get home.  But Kaiyo is really lamenting the fact that he didn’t have time to show Grant the arcade.  The visit is just too short.  So I suggested that MAYBE he could leave school at lunchtime and give Grant a quick tour of Namcoland at Q’s Mall.  I don’t think John likes this idea but I know it would be pretty memorable for Kaiyo.

John says okay, he’ll pick Kaiyo up in the car and drive us to Namcoland at lunch.  We work out exactly when Kaiyo should come down to the genkan at school for pick up.  We take a quick spin to the arcade and Kaiyo shows Grant the claw machines, UFO machines, coin pusher games, etc.  They won a large box of candy (I told Grant he had to take it with him but he forgot it in the car) and some little trinkets.  Grant said he had a great time.After the arcade fun it’s almost time for me to say good-bye and head to work.  It’s Tuesday, my regular work day in Takatsuki.  Grant says his favorite food is okonomiyaki (o-ko-no-me-yah-key) so we have to go get that for lunch.  We head to a place called Warai which is near the kids’ school.  It has a hot grill in the middle of the table.  We ordered two okonomiyaki and one plate of yakisoba.  Yum!  John will hang out with Grant for the rest of the afternoon and then escort him back to Itami for his flight to Tokyo.  It was such a fun surprise to see him here!