Akihabara is considered by many to be a holy land of otaku culture, and with good reason. From anime to electronics to maid cafes, there’s not much you can’t find here. You can even pay someone to clean your ears! Which, to this writer, sounds absolutely horrifying. The idea of a total stranger getting inside my ear canal and scraping out all the gunk is both gross and horrifying, mainly because I can’t stop imagining the ear cleaner slipping and driving the ear-pick deep into my brain.
And that’s probably exactly why the RocketNews24 editors chose me to try it out! If you’ve ever wanted to have a young woman lay your head in her lap and then scrape the wax out of your ears, here’s your chance to see what it’s like.
After a bit of research and sending off a few emails, we found the perfect salon for my ear inauguration: Étoile Moemakura. Located a few minutes from Akihabara Station on foot, the salon offers a host of services from ear cleaning to karaoke with the staff member of your choice to a good slap across the face. Heck, you can even go on a full-day visit to Disneyland with one of the staff members!
But we were only after one thing: A good, old-fashioned ear cleaning.
Before we go any further, we should probably address the wax-ball elephant in the room. What the heck is mimi-kaki (ear cleaning) and why in the world do people pay for this? To begin with, mimi-kaki is basically just scraping all the wax out of your ears so they’ll be nice and clean. But this is where things are a bit different from what you might be used to. First, personally, I usually use cotton swabs to clean my ears, and I imagine that’s the case for most other folks from the US and other western countries. In Japan, though, there are a number of different tools you can use to get your dirty ear holes cleaned out. Like the little stick of bamboo pictured below.
▼ It’s 146mm or about 5.7 inches long. Perfect for scrambling brains!
For many of you, the thought of that going inside your ears might be slightly terrifying. (It certainly was for me.) And you might be wondering why anyone would even use an instrument like that at all, but it helps to remember that people of different ancestry have different types of earwax. Without going into too much detail, we can sum it up thusly: People with East Asian and Native American ancestry tend to have drier earwax, and people with African and European ancestry tend to have wetter earwax. So while cotton swabs might work great for one person, an ear pick (also called a mimi-kaki) like the one above, might be better for others.
Okay, so now we know why people use mimi-kaki (the tool), but why do they go to get it done by someone else?!
▼ An essential aspect of the service is laying your head in the cleaner’s lap.
While cleaning your ears is kind of a personal thing for many of us, in Japan cleaning another’s ears is considered an act of affection or sign of intimacy. No, you wouldn’t just run up to a cute boy or girl and start cleaning their ears, but for couples, it’s one type of bonding. Often a couple will take turns laying their heads in each other’s lap and letting their partner clean their ears. If that sounds gross, just think of it like a couple bathing each other or exchanging massages; it’s the same concept here. But with brain-scramblers. This kind of ear-cleaning is also apparently a very comforting experience for some since it reminds them of their childhood days when their mother would clean out their ears before bedtime.
So, if you don’t have a girlfriend, or maybe even if you do, a mimi-kaki salon is a great way to get some of that affection from a pretty young woman and get your ears clean at the same time.
This being Akihabara, the staff at Étoile Moemakura also wear maid uniforms, and you can get your ears cleaned for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours — or even longer if you have the cash. They offer a number of other services, as we mentioned above, so you can get a quick massage to go with your clean ears. Saki, the ear cleaner we met, told us that customers could even just go outside for a walk with a maid, which sounds suspiciously similar to paying to go on a date, but we’re hardly experts on the topic of getting your ears cleaned so we’ll leave it to them to decide where the line is.
The salon is located on the third floor, and, after a quick stop by the front desk, you’re taken to a small private room. The whole floor is relatively dimly lit and lullaby-like music plays in the background, creating a relaxing atmosphere. We later asked Saki who the primarily clientele was, and she explained that, as you might imagine, there are lots of younger Japanese men, though they do see a fair share of overseas visitors and some women. So if you decide to try it out for yourself, you can be sure you’ll have fun regardless of who you are or where you come from.
After introducing us the tools she was going to be sticking inside my head, Saki sat on a couch and had me lie down next to her, placing my head in her lap. While that might sound fun, I have to admit I was feeling a bit of trepidation — not only did I not know this girl from Adam (Eve?), I’m not personally a big fan of other people jabbing the inside of my ears with anything, let alone the giant ear-pick she had shown me with a smile moments before.
The process started out with her basically wiping down my ears, stretching them out, and massaging the inside of the outer ear, shiatsu-style. Then we moved on to scraping the inside of the ear canals. Bear in mind that, the entire time, I couldn’t see what was going, so it was kind of similar to someone sneaking up behind you in a dark alley at night and tickling you. On the whole, though, everything was fine. Until that ear-pick came out, that is.
It’s hard to describe the sensation exactly, but the long ear-pick inside my ear felt a lot like when a bug crawled in my ear when I was a kid. There wasn’t any skittering or biting, obviously, but it was far from relaxing – I just had to lie still and trust that this wouldn’t suddenly end with a flash of white, searing pain and my own blood-curdling scream. After several minutes of gentle picking, my maid friend then used a cotton swab with some cleaning agent to get the whole ear clean, finishing me off with a fluffy little duster to leave my ear clean and dry.
I knew what to expect when it came to cleaning my left ear, but it was still slightly nerve-wracking not knowing exactly what was happening. Nevertheless, the whole process ended without incident and with all my brains still in their correct locations.
But just when I thought we were done, I discovered that my wonderful editors had decided to ask Saki to demonstrate one more service for all of our readers to enjoy. It turned out she was going to give me a good binta, or face-slap.
For those of you who hate my articles and think I’m an awful writer, consider this my gift to you!
To get the full effect of the slap, and to see the entire ear-cleaning process, you’ll have to watch the video below. If you want to jump right to my beating, you can skip to around 06:45 for a brief introduction of the salon’s slapping services and the big smack itself. Trust me, it hurt.
In the end, I can definitely see why some people would enjoy the mimi-kaki service, even if I’m not sure I’d want to try it again. There’s definitely a different level of interaction that you’ll get at Étoile Moemakura from your standard maid cafe. It’s a unique experience, so we’d definitely encourage anyone doing some sightseeing in Akihabara to stop by and get their ears cleaned. And if you enjoy people playing with your ears, we’d definitely recommend stopping by; your ears will certainly be spotlessly clean by the time you leave!
A big thank you to Étoile Moemakura for letting us film and experience their excellent ear cleaning service! A half-hour cleaning (slap not included) costs 3,000 yen, though they have a wide range of other services available. Click here to take a look at their options.
Address: 東京都千代田区外神田3-15-7第二丸信ビル3 (Google Maps)
Hours: Weekdays — 12:00 to 22:00
Weekends and holidays — 11:00 to 22:00 (Last order 21:00)
Phone number: 03-6206-8544
All images © RocketNews24 unless otherwise noted.