Japanese associate ear-cleaning with their childhood and many of them are willing to pay to return to those carefree days if only for just a few minutes. That’s what makes ear-cleaning salons one of the most popular businesses in Japan, right now.
Ever since Japan authorities decided to deregulate ear-cleaning as a medical profession, making it available without a medical license, hundreds of salons offering the service started popping up all over the country. The vast majority of clients are men looking to relax their minds after a stressful day, and travel back to the days when they used to rest their heads on their mothers’ laps for the occasional ear cleaning session. Three out of four clients claim it’s so relaxing they actually fall asleep while the kimono-wearing cleaners excavate the wax out of their ears. Some say their wives clean their ears at home, but it’s just not the same without the traditional Japanese style room and the tatami mats.
Women who want to work in ear-cleaning salons have to become masters of the “mimikaki” (traditional cleaning tool), so they go through a one week course to acquire the proper ear-cleaning skills. They have to learn to remove just the right amount of ear wax, because it protects the ear canal, lubricates it and has antibacterial and antiviral properties. If all the wax is removed the canal is left vulnerable to a variety of outside threats. As the ear-cleaning girls lay their customers’ heads in their laps and look for the right kind of bamboo or metal stick that best suites their task, they have to do everything they can to make them feel comfortable and relaxed. And when working with such a sensitive area, that’s not always easy.
Although 95% of ear-cleaning salon clients are men and photographs of the women working in these salons are often updated on company blogs, they all show signs stating this is not a salon offering sexual services and that era cleaning will stop whenever there is an act that offends women. Still according to a salon manager “after the ear-cleaning, the girls blow in the customers’ ears to remove any remaining dust. Lots of guys ask the girls to blow a lot.”