Q-Tips; cotton swabs; ear buds; whatever you know them as, most of us have stuck one of those little fluffy-ended paper sticks in our ears at some point in our lives.
Japan, though, has a rather unique fondness of ear picks, or “mimi-kaki” as they’re known here. So much of a fondness, in fact, that a brand new three-pronged wire monster of an ear pick– with a whopping ¥2000 ($25 US) price tag– has just entered the already rather crowded ear pick market, whipping Japan’s ear-cleaning otaku up into a frenzy…
Despite many western medical specialists urging people not to put anything smaller than their finger too far into their ear, the use of ear picks in Japan remains remarkably popular, with many people describing the sensation of a good ol’ cotton swab sweep as one of the most pleasant and relaxing sensations there is.
So relaxing, in fact, that there are even dedicated ear-cleaning parlours where customers can enjoy a beverage while lying back and having their ears cleaned by a young lady armed with an ear pick. The very thought of allowing a stranger to put a wooden stick in my ear, quite honestly, makes this writer shudder, and I’d much rather clean my own ears in private before quickly throwing the dirty cotton swab away to hide the evidence of my uncleanliness. There again, perhaps that’s just what years of catholic schooling does to a guy…
Apparently, though, we’ve all been doing it wrong! Thanks to the instructional images that accompany the new ¥2000 ear pick from utensil maker Leben, we can clearly see that, up until now, we’ve all been pushing our ear-wax deeper into our ear canals! Why did no-one tell us sooner!? Thankfully, this new brand of ear pick, seemingly straight out of the devil’s own workshop, is here to save us from our waxy fate. With three-prongs of looped copper wire, this unique ear pick- unlike regular cotton swabs, apparently- gets in behind the ear-gunk and pulls it out, kind of like a tiny pixie ear rake. The process looks nothing short of terrifying.
Despite having already sold by the bucket-load on online stores like Amazon.jp and Rakuten, Japan’s ear-cleaning elite are not entirely convinced, with many taking to internet forums to express their doubt:
“Doesn’t this look even a little bit scary to anyone else?”
“I bet that’s fiddly to clean…”
and, perhaps the factor that’s most important for mimi-kaki otaku,
“But how does it feel!?”
Drug stores in Japan often stock a wide range of wooden and plastic ear picks, including models featuring character designs like Hello Kitty, and it’s not uncommon to find city-themed ear-wax removers on sale in souvenir stores, much to the bewilderment of western visitors.
Japan, it would seem, is a nation of very clean-eared people.