Wait…You Can Have Maids Clean Your Ears In Japan?
In Japan, there’s a lot of niche shops and services to appeal to a spectrum of people. I skipped most things but couldn’t resist getting my ears cleaned at a maid cafe. Well, it wasn’t necessarily a cafe…more like an uncomfortable office space with cubicles.
It was a warm summer Thursday afternoon and I’ve been walking around Akihabara all morning looking for a specific anime figure for my co-worker’s kids. Other than anime related purchases, Akihabara is also known for maid cafes. It’s common to find several girls in maid costumes on each block handing out flyers for their shops. I ignored them mostly since I didn’t want to overpay for mediocre food and drinks. I then saw this sign:
For 10 minutes I was thinking about going. I found myself a few blocks away when I decided to go back for the ear cleaning service. My ears get poorly cleaned by me. I knew it was time to turn to a professional. 1980JPY for a 20 minute ear cleaning, that sounds reasonable.
I walk up to the 3rd floor and see flyers on the door for the maid shop. This was definitely it:
As soon as you walk in, it seems a little shady. It just didn’t seem clean and tidy like a regular business. Opening the door leads to into a small hallway. To your right, is a little waiting area with a few chairs and manga comics on the counter. To your left is the shop.
Once inside the shop, I was greeted by a casually dressed tall Japanese man. He spoke enough English to function as the front desk person and big enough to be the bouncer in case something went down.
I told him I was there for the ear cleaning. He then directed me to a pricing chart for 30, 45 and 60 minutes. I told him I saw the sign outside for 20 minutes for 1980JPY. He then showed me the price of 2100JPY for 20 minutes and said “taxes.” Alright, I’m in this so that price difference isn’t going to change my day. He then asks which service I was looking for. At this point I guess it’s a 20 minute flat rate for any of their services. I told him “ear cleaning” and paid him 2100JPY. He instructed me to sit in the waiting room for a moment.
Ten minutes later, the guy from reception brought me into the office space, had me take off my shoes, put slippers on, and then walked me into a cubicle that was closed off by a sheer blanket. He told me to have a seat so I just waited there on the couch.
Inside the dimly lit cubicle was a couch, chair, electric fan, clothing hangers and advertisements for add-on services. The add-ons were things like changing their outfit to a popular idol or anime character, pictures, and then a few other things that I couldn’t read.
The entire office was a compilation of tall cubicles with sheets as doors. It was very quiet, but I knew there were a lot of customers there. I could tell because I saw a lot sneakers in the shoes area.
I waited in the cubicle for another 10 minutes until this girl in a very plain maid’s uniform came in and sat next to me on the couch. She looked to be in her early 20’s with a sad smile that screamed, “What has become of my life?” After a short introduction, she sat on the edge of the couch, put a towel on her lap and then gestured to me to put my head down. I followed her instructions and then she put a small towel over my head, only keeping my ear exposed. She didn’t use any protection (gloves) and it felt great.
After 10 minutes of cleaning one ear, she stopped, got up, and moved to the other end of the couch. She put a towel down on her lap again and gestured for me to put my head down. Another 10 minutes later and both ears were now clean.
As I was leaving, the guy at reception gave me a frequent visitor card. There was some kind of discount after every 10 visits. It has 40 slots on the card with 1 now filled in. I walked out feeling great! My ears felt super clean! Even though it was done in a place that seemed a little dirty.