When 30-year-old Japanese salaryman Takahisa Kobayashi places his head on the lap of an attractive young woman, he is thinking of his mother.
The summer kimono covering her thighs brushes against his face as he lies on the tatami mat floor and briefly looks into her elegantly made-up eyes.
A traditional alcove displays an ornate umbrella from years gone by, soothing away the memories of the garish neon of Tokyo’s streets as 24-year-old Amane talks softly to her customer.
Then she begins scraping wax from his ears with a sharp bamboo stick.
“I’m coming here to relax my mind. Most Japanese associate ear cleaning with their childhood,” said Kobayashi, who manages a consulting company in Tokyo.
As a young child, he recalls sitting on his mother’s lap as she gently removed the daily build-up.
“My wife occasionally cleans my ears but that is different without the traditional Japanese-style room and its tatami matting.”
Kobayashi is one of up to 150 people — most of them men — who come to the flagship parlour of Yamamoto Mimikakiten (Yamamoto Earpick Shop) in Tokyo’s bustling Akihabara district every day.
The parlour, one of 11 in the chain, has 16 rooms and is often fully booked, by customers paying 2,700 yen ($35) for a half-hour session.
Amane — who declined to give her real name — wears a light summer kimono, known as a yukata, as she welcomes her clients with a cup of green tea.
She lays their heads gently on her lap and talks to them as she selects the right kind of metal or bamboo pick to remove the particular wax she is trying to excavate.
by The Punjapit Alliance