There's a rumor out there that Japanese couples like to have a poke around … in each other's ears … with ear cleaning devices. Yes, apparently cleaning your loved one's ears is right up there with sharing the bathroom as a sign that a relationship has really gone to the next level. Alas, this writer has never been afforded access to anyone's ears, nor is such access particularly desired. I have, however, allowed others access to my own. (Un)lucky for some!
We'll spare you sordid lifestyle details and simply say that not so long ago I woke up one morning with the feeling like I had chewing gum stuck down my ear, and muffled hearing to that effect as well. After some ill-advised prodding and poking and a brief flirt with an archaic mother's remedy, it became abundantly clear that I needed to see a medical professional. Welcome to the jibika / 耳鼻科.
Jibika (耳鼻科) are what we would call ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) clinics back home. As it turned out, all that was needed for this writer is what I would like to call an industrial ear clean, one requiring qualified professionals armed with equipment that needs a power source.
Visiting a jibika was simple enough, and no appointment was needed. I just went in and told them that my ear hurt - 耳が痛いです. / mimi ga itai desu.
Step 1 – form filling
The usual sort of stuff, name, address, phone number, date of birth, Are you on any medication?. The lady behind reception did her best to make things clear and simple.
Step 2 – hearing test
Take a seat in a small booth, put on some massive ear phones and grab hold of the button. Give it a press as soon as you hear a series of beeps. Out of the booth and a quick once over from the nurse.
Step 3 – the clean
After a short wait in the corridor, it was into the doctor's room and onto the bed. A tag team of doctor and nurse rolled me over and got a video camera view into the deep, disgusting recess of my ear. The whole scene was played out on a monitor for both patient and 'cleaning crew' to see. After assessing the situation, a combination of suction device and hook was used to dislodge and expel the guilty blockage; the build up of what this writer likes to think of as a life well lived! The offending article was put on a tray for a brief inspection, and some cleaning fluid injected into my ear to finish the job off. The whole process was over in ten minutes. The wax was presented to me as a souvenir but I turned it down.
Step 4 – payment
Back into reception, take a seat and wait to be called over to the desk to make payment. Social insurance was accepted.
Vising the jibika for an 'industrial clean' was simple, swift, and not in the least bit painful. In fact, as intimate experiences go, this was right up there with the best of them; the moment of blockage dislodge was almost euphoric!
It needs to be said though, as much as this writer recommends having one’s ears cleaned, it’s not possible to just turn up at a jibika and ask for it. You have to be suffering some kind of discomfort!
Now, here at City-Cost, we're not qualified to clean ears or indeed give much in the way of advice on the matter, other than recount our own experiences. Oh, but hang on! It turns out you don’t necessarily need to be qualified to poke about in people’s ears in Japan! As such, if you really do want to pay someone to clean your ears with no questions asked, you can find establishments that do just this. The service is usually provided by young girls who rest customers’ heads in their laps before getting to work (with non mechanized implements), and usually includes some kind of light massage. We can’t confirm this, but who’d like to bet that most customers are of the emotionally stunted, sexually repressed male type? If you still want to give it a go, do an Internet search for 耳かきサービス/mimi kaki sa-bisu/ear cleaning service.
In Japan it’s possible to buy all manner of ear-cleaning implements beyond the standard Q-tips or cotton swabs. Many of them appear, at the very least, medically unsound, with some looking like relics from a mad, Dickensian science lab. Zakka stores like Loft and Tokyu Hands usually have an interesting selection.