Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

Shibari (Japanese bondage)

ShibariShibari, or kinbaku, is the Japanese art of bondage. It’s a significant theme in Japanese eroticism and features in much of the culture’s porn, which often dwells on themes of domination and submission.

The approach and ideology of shibari contrasts slightly with Western ideas of bondage. In shibari, the aesthetic effect of the ropes on the body is crucial – the nawashi (“one who uses rope”) often uses asymmetric patterns to emphasise the visual impact. Also, shibari focuses on the sensations of the jujun (“one who submits to the rope”), and ropes are carefully used to arouse and pleasure the entrapped.

Outsiders are often shocked at the willingness of Japanese women to be tied up. Practioners of shibari would say that submission and humiliation frees a woman, although this explanation wouldn’t be very convincing to someone who really disapproved. At the very least, these adventurous sexual games could represent a release from the usually mundane lives led by many people in Japan.

History

Japanese bondage originates from hojojitsu, medieval military restraint techniques. The samurai, who generally showed great respect for their captives, were peerless in their ability to tie enemies up safely and securely.

The art became crueller under the Tokugawa government, when binding techniques were used as punishments for various offences. Once a victim was restrained, four methods were used to humiliate and inflict pain: whipping, stoning, constriction, and hanging them mid-air. These four types of torture survive, in less extreme forms, in modern Japanese S&M.

Despite the decline in hojojitsu, shibari techniques have moved to the bedroom, partly encouraged by Western influences. Newly-introduced ideas about sex and bondage, like those of the Marquis de Sade, aroused lovers’ enthusiasm for traditional shibari techniques. In the 1960s, as Japan’s porn industry exploded, Tokyo theatres hosted shibari shows, in which a nawashi would demonstrate techniques on a hapless volunteer from the audience.

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3 Comments, Comment or Ping

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