Mimikakiten: The Next Maid Cafe?

Remember how when you were a kid they told you to never put  anything in your ear at all because it’s really, really dangerous and could give you permanent hearing loss? Well, no one has ever said that in the entire history of Japan, and most Japanese people have an ear cleaning kit at home.
A husband lying down with his head on his wife’s lap having his ears cleaned is an image of domestic bliss in Japan, and it’s said that when a guy has no one to clean his ears, it can be a lonely experience to do it for himself.
Well, never fear, because now there’s a shop called the Yamato Mimikakiten where you can go to get your ears cleaned by an attractive young woman. A woman’s lap is often called a “hizamakura,” (you’ve probably seen the popular lap pillows sold to lonely otaku), and this shop lets you rest your head on the girl’s lap during the session.

The company calls its employees komachi, which means “beautiful woman.” Each one seems to be required to keep a blog which they update daily with pictures of themselves and chatter about their daily lives. (Here’s a sample, but it’s in Japanese only.) You can choose your komachi for an extra 500 yen per half hour.

Here’s a video:

A cleaning costs 2,700 for 30 minutes and 4,800 yen for one hour.
If you’d like to check it out, there’s a branch in Ueno. From JR Ueno Station, go out the Central Exit and turn right, walking past Keisei Ueno Station. You’ll pass Yodobashi Camera and AbAb Department Store on the other side of the road. Keep going until you see a JTB travel agent. The ear cleaner’s is in the next building, a pachinko parlor and capsule hotel which says “Treasure Hunting” on it.

The address is 2-6-11 Egg Biru 6F
Taito-ku, Tokyo.
Tel. 03-3839-8100
It’s open from 12 to 10 every day.

The shop’s website is at: http://www.yamamotomimikaki.com

Ameyoko-cho Mask Shop

This little shop in Ueno’s Ameyoko-cho market district sells rubber celebrity masks. They only cost 2,000 yen or so and would certainly make a unique souvenir of Japan. It’s call the Ueno-ya, and the masks page is here.

Hatoyama Yukio Antonio Inoki
Kinnikuman Kuidaore Clown
Eyeball Ozawa Ichiro
Asashoryu Buddha
Anime character (This one costs
13,000 yen)
Godzilla

To get there, go out the North Exit of Okachimachi Station and turn left, walking along the JR tracks. Turn right at the second corner and you’ll see it immediately on the right.
The address is 6-3-9 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo (Japanese: 東京都台東区上野 6-3-9). Tel. 03-3831-0631
The masks can also be bought online.

Otaku Photos

I found these on a Japanese blog called  V-blog, which is kind of a “best of 2channel” site. The original 2Channel thread the photos come from seems to be gone, though.

http://gasoku.livedoor.biz/archives/51296495.html

Tokyo Realtime Tours

In the past, tourists in Japan faced the difficult choice of getting herded around on a package tour or wandering around without a guide having no idea what they’re looking at half the time. Personally, I’ve always preferred to travel on my own, but when I ended up going somewhere without a Japanese friend, I always felt like I was missing out on a lot of good information and context.

I recently received promotional copies of White Rabbit Press’s Tokyo Realtime Tours of Akihabara and Kabuki-cho, and after listening to them, I have to say that they are an ideal solution for people who want a personally-oriented guide as they travel around Japan. You’re completely free to go wherever you want and spend as much time as you need, but it’s like having your own private tour with an expert guide who can fill you in on everything you ever wanted to know about what you’re seeing.

The tours are very professionally done, with full color maps, and studio-quality audio. In the Akihabara tour, you’re guided around by Patrick Galbraith, a researcher at the prestigious University of Tokyo who has spent years studying and writing about Japan’s otaku subculture. He really takes you deep into Akihabara, and if you follow the tour you’re bound to find tons of places that you wouldn’t on your own.

For example, he takes you into Radio Town, the maze of tiny shops near the station, a place where I rarely see tourists and explains about its history and some of the interesting shops in it. You learn all kinds of things that take you beyond the stereotypical view of otaku and Japan that are presented in so many books and articles about Japan. You also get taken to a maid cafe, a figure shop, and other interesting only-in-Akihabara attractions.I can pretty much guarantee that no matter how much you think you know about Japan and Akihabara you’ll learn a lot of new, interesting stuff from this tour.

There’s also a real-time tour of Kabuki-cho. It takes you around to various sex shops, love hotel areas, and the famous Golden Gai, a warren of tiny bars. Here again, you really get the inside scoop on one of Japan’s most interesting districts, learning about its history, culture, and what makes the people there tick.

I have to say that I slightly preferred the Akihabara tour, but I think it’s because it’s a lot easier to go into the shops. In the Kabuki-cho tour, you’re sometimes left standing outside a sex club or yakuza headquarters listening to an explanation of what goes on inside. Still, it is an excellent guide to the area, and takes you to a lot of interesting places that most people would never find on their own.

You can download the audio file and a map for $12, or pay $18 and get a full-color photobook and fold-out map as well. There is also a special offer where you buy the physical version of both tours together, you pay just $27 for both. Some people might say that’s almost as much as a guidebook, but when you compare them to the cost of a guide or think about how much more you’re going to enjoy your visit than if you had a little two-paragraph write up in a guidebook, I’d say it’s a pretty good investment.

If you’re interested in the tours, visit: http://www.tokyorealtime.com/

In the interests of full-disclosure, I was offered free copies of the tours, but am not taking any money and was free to say whatever I wanted about them.

The Tire Park

Tokyo’s Nishirokugo Koen, better known as Tire Koen, is about the most unusual park I’ve ever seen. Most of the equipment is built out of old tires, and there are Godzillas, rocket ships, and giant robots.





Getting there: Tire Koen is Ota Ward, almost in Kawasaki. It’s about 10 minutes’ walk from Kamata Station on the JR Keihin Tohoku Line. Go out of the West Exit, and turn left. Walk south, going past a Tokyu Store on the left, and then a 7-11 and McDonald’s on the right. Walk south about ten minutes keeping the tracks on your left, and you’ll come to park.
Address: 2-1-1 Kamata Honmachi, Ota-ku. Tel. 03-5713-1118

Website: http://www.city.ota.tokyo.jp/midokoro/park/nishirokkugou_taiya_kouen/index.html (Japanese only)

The Mermaid’s Stroll Love Hotel


I came across this odd little love hotel will driving along the coast of Wakayama Prefecture. It’s called Ningyou no Osanpo.

There’s more information about   love hotels in my book, Love Hotels: An Inside Look at Japan’s Sexual Playgrounds. I spent years visiting love hotels around Japan, interviewing love hotel designers, owners and staff, and wading through Japanese books on sex and love hotels to bring you this book.

It’s 182 pages of information about their history, the people who design and operate them, their place in Japanese society, crime, and much, much more. There’s also a love hotel guide with information on how to get to the best hotels in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, Sapporo, and Fukuoka.

For more information about love hotels, please visit my newly updated love hotel page at: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotels.html

To order or find out more about the book, please visit: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelbookintro.htm. There’s also a smaller guidebook, with just the hotel information for 500 yen: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelguide.html.

There are more love hotel-related posts here.

Japanese Fortune Telling: Of Cats’ Paw-pads, Penguins, Monsters, and Gundams

A couple weeks ago I was riding the train and saw a big poster for a book called Neko no Nikukyuu Uranai (Cat’s Paw-pad Fortune Telling). I thought maybe it was worth writing a post about, but while I was searching for it, I realized it was just the tip of the let’s-invent-ridiculous-fortune-telling-systems-and-sell-them-to-gullible-people iceberg.
Here are some of the weirder ones I found, along with excerpts from the publisher’s descriptions on Amazon.

Cat’s Paw-pad Fortune Telling (Neko no Nikukyuu Uranai)
A cat’s mental condition, its character, tendencies, and even its fate are written on the pads of its paws. This book was written by a writer who has worked for many years at a cat magazine and studied over 100 cats to collect data for the book. It also includes feng shui diagnostics, name fortune telling, and psychological tests.

Hello Kitty Tarot Fortune Telling (Haro- Kitei no Tarotto Uranai)
These 22 tarot cards have Hello Kitty on them. These cards are perfect for people who think the illustrations on tarot cards are scary or difficult to understand.

 

Angel Numbers: Numbers are Messages from Angels (Enjeru Nanba-: Suuji ha Tenshi no Messe-ji)
Angels are sending you messages through number combinations. When you look at a clock or a car’s license plate, dial the phone, or have an anniversary…if the same numbers often come up, look for a spiritual meaning in them.

 

Penguin Fortune Telling: Improve Your Ability to Get Along with People! (Pengin Uranai: Anata no Hitozukiai-ryoku ga Agaru!)
You’ll get along with people as smoothly as a penguin swims through the water. Learn the ten types of penguin personalities based on fortune telling based on the pronunciation of people’s names and you’ll learn how you tend to act with people and tricks for getting along with them better.

Capybara Fortune Telling to Bring You Good Fortune (Kaiun Kapibara-san Uranai)
Explains the power and meaning of everyday numbers and colors  and also how to use them, in an easy-to-understand way. In Chapter 1, you learn the best numbers to shoot for when setting goals for things like diets. In Chapter 2, you learn the numbers meanings, and Chapter 3 explains the meanings of colors. [A capybara is a South American Rodent. I have no idea what it has to do with fortune telling.]

The Complete Guide to 12 Animals and 60 Sub-types Mascot Fortune Telling (12 Doubutsu 60 Bunrui Kanzen-ban Masukotto Uranai)
The 12 cute animals are divided into 60 sub-categories, in this ground-breaking, interesting fortune telling system that gets your character and compatibility exactly right. Even though two people might be elephants, since there’s a popular elephant, there must also be an elephant that charges ahead blindly as well!

Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall Fortune telling (Basic Edition) (Shunkashuntou Uranai: Be-shikku -hen)
What are your current and birth seasons? If you adapt your life to the four seasons, you will understand the cycle of luck. By understanding the flow of luck, you’ll know how to act.

Gundam Fortune telling 0079-0080: Complete Analysis of Your Abilities (Gandamu Uranai 0079-0080: Anata no Seinou Kanzen Bunseki)
Categorizes all personality types according to the 48 types of gundam suits. Also includes love-compatibility analysis.

 

Warring-States-Period-General Fortune Telling (Sengoku Bushou Uranai)
See the real you! Are you a person who could conquer a nation? Warring-States-Period-General Fortune Telling is a system based on analyzing your character and tendencies, created using statistical factors. Since the Earth orbits the sun in a 360-degree orbit, depending on the time period, various heavenly bodies will be visible. This fortune-telling system is based on both Eastern and Western methods.

Moon Cat Fortune Telling So Accurate it’s Scary: Your Cat-protector (Spirit Guide) Teaches You about Love, Human Relationships, Work, Talent… (Osoroshii Hodo Ataru Tsuki-neko Uranai)
Tsuki-neko fortune telling is based on Western astrology. The first step is to find your protector cat (spirit guide). The cat will then teach you about how to meet your soulmate, find the hidden you, change jobs, and learn the best day for doing things.

Park Rehearsals

A couple of weekends ago, a TV crew from a Singaporean production company asked me if they could interview me for a documentary about love hotels. It was hard to find a good spot, and they finally decided on Yoyogi Park. Unfortunately, during the interview, we were interrupted several times by a didgeridoo player, a tap dancer, and various other people. I had never really noticed how many people there are practicing things in the park before, so I took a walk around and see what other kinds of rehearsals I could find.

yoyogipractice12

There were thespians.

yoyogipractice4

Ballroom dancers.

yoyogipractice3

I have no idea what this thing is, but the music sure was beautiful. If you know, answers in the comments, please.
Read more

The Green Tokyo Gundam Project

Tokyo’s giant Gundam is currently attracting millions of visitors who come to see the giant steel robot rising up over Shiokaze Koen in Odaiba. It’s official name is the Green Tokyo Gundam Project, and it’s part of a plan to promote Tokyo’s campaign for the 2016 Olympics – they’re trying to make things greener and more environmentally friendly for the games. It’s easy to be cynical about using a giant steel robot to promote the environment, and how there’s nothing really “green” about the souvenir shops and the way it’s set up. When you go there, there are no environmental messages or other things you’d expect from “green Tokyo” campaign. The Tokyo Olympic committee is working with a for-profit company, Bandai, helping them to promote their products in Tokyo’s bid to host the games so that the city can get prestige and the economic stimulus that comes with being a host city.
But maybe this is the future of environmentalism. They’re going to use the money raised from selling souvenirs to plant trees and put lawns in school grounds. If people come and see the Gundam and have a good time, do they need to learn about the environment? If they are encouraged to consume, to buy gundam models and souvenir booklets, as long as the money is going to the environment, you can argue that it’s doing more good than harm. And a green Olympics is better than a polluting one, even if the organizers are doing it as part of their promotion strategy, right? I guess I can’t really convince myself completely, but it is something to think about.

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love-hotel-coverBy the way, my book, Love Hotels: An Inside Look at Japan’s Sexual Playgrounds is finally available on Amazon.co.jp, as well as Amazon.com. I spent years visiting Japan’s kinky, sex-oriented hotels, interviewing love hotel designers, owners and staff, and wading through Japanese sources on sex and love hotels to bring you this book.

It’s 182 pages of information about their history, the people who design and operate them, their place in Japanese society, crime, and much, much more. There’s also a love hotel guide with information on how to get to the best hotels in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, Sapporo, and Fukuoka.

For more information about love hotels, please visit my newly updated love hotel page at: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotels.html

To order or find out more about the book, please visit: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelbookintro.htm. There’s also a smaller guidebook, with just the hotel information for 500 yen: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelguide.html.

There are more love hotel-related posts
here.