What’s Long & Skinny And Not What You Think It Is?


Hey, I was visiting the Togenuki Jizo and I got you a present.

Wow, thanks. What is it?


Oh no. On second thought, I don’t want it. It’s something weird, I just know it.

It’s not weird! I swear, after you try it, you won’t be able to live without it.

What’s this writing on the end? It says “Harada’s Utricularia bifida species of bladderwort.” 

What? Give me that. You idiot, you’ve been overstudying your kanji again. That’s the most obscure reading ever. It says “Harada’s Ear Pick.”

Ear pick? You mean you use it to…ewww, gross!

You won’t say that after you try it. In fact, you’re going to beg me to tell you where I bought it, so you can buy them as presents for everyone you know back home.  Go on, give it a try.

Well, okay, I’ll be right back…

…So, what did you think?

Where can I buy more?


At the temple where people come to ask the Togenuki Jizo to cure their ailments, this artisan sets up shop, carving bamboo ear cleaners. After he shapes each one, he hardens it on the little barbeque behind him. The ear cleaners come in various shapes and sizes, and are made to order. It takes about forty minutes, and costs around ¥2000.

If you want to visit the ear pick carver or see other delights such as The Honorable Duck Butt of Sugamo or the Big Red Underwear store the next time you’re in Tokyo, a map to Koshinzuka Street are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.

Read a novel set in Tokyo

When Detective Kenji Nakamura’s phone rings with the news that his mother’s death wasn’t an accident, his life begins to unravel…read more