Japanese bondage

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Kinbaku (緊縛?) means 'tight binding' Kinbaku-bi (緊縛美?) which literally means 'the beauty of tight binding'. Kinbaku is a Japanese style of bondage or BDSM which involves tying up the bottom using simple yet visually intricate patterns, usually with several pieces of thin rope (often jute, hemp or linen and generally around 6 mm in diameter, but sometimes as small as 4mm, and between 7–8m long). In Japanese, this natural-fibre rope is known as 'asanawa'; the Japanese vocabulary does not make a distinction between hemp and jute. The allusion is to the use of hemp rope for restraining prisoners, as a symbol of power, in the same way that stocks or manacles are used in a Western BDSM context.[1] The word shibari came into common use in the West at some point in the 1990s to describe the bondage art Kinbaku. Shibari (縛り?) is a Japanese word that literally means "to tie" or "to bind".[citation needed]

'Kinbaku' vs. 'shibari'[edit]

There is much discussion about the distinction between shibari and kinbaku, and whether one term is more appropriate than another.

One modern distinction which is gaining popularity is that shibari refers to purely artistic, aesthetic rope, whilst kinbaku refers to the artistic, connective, sensual, sexual practice as a whole.

A traditional view is that the term 'shibari' is a wrong Western Japonism. The word denotes tying in Japanese, but in a generic way, and traditionally not in the context of bondage. The names for many particular ties include 'shibari', but it is not traditional to call the entire activity that way. (In the same way as there are 'Diamond Knots' and 'Portuguese Bowline Knots', but 'knotting' does not mean bondage). Instead, Kinbaku is the term for artistic or erotic tying within traditional Japanese rope bondage circles.[citation needed]

However, this is a somewhat hidebound definition and the word shibari is now increasingly being re-imported from the West to Japan, as the tying communities are very much interconnected. Most Japanese kinbakushi do not object to the term shibari, as it's common vernacular in the global community.

Rope types[edit]

In Japan the most often used type of rope is a loose laid, three strand jute rope. This rope is referred to as "Asanawa" usually translated as "hemp rope" the word 'asa' as hemp and 'nawa' as rope,[2][3][4] however this is using the more generic form of the work [hemp] referring to a range of natural fibre ropes rather than those pertaining to a particular plant. In recent history a range of rope types have been used for Kinbaku in Japan though Nawashi rarely use synthetic fibre rope and most often use jute.

Aesthetics of Japanese bondage[edit]

The aesthetics of the bound person's position is important: in particular, Japanese bondage is distinguished by its use of specific katas (forms) and aesthetic rules. Sometimes, asymmetric and often intentionally uncomfortable positions are employed. In particular, Japanese bondage is very much about the way the rope is applied and the pleasure is more in the journey than the destination. In this way the rope becomes an extension of the nawashi's hands and is used to communicate.[citation needed]

Traditional Japanese bondage techniques use natural vegetable fiber rope (hemp, jute, or linen) exclusively,[citation needed] though contemporary Japanese Masters have been working with a range of rope materials. The natural fibers easily lock to each other which means the bondage can be held together by the friction of twists and turns or very simple knots. Traditionally, multiple 6-8 meter lengths are used.[citation needed]

Shibari in contemporary art[edit]

Shibari has a strong presence in the works of some renowned contemporary artists, mainly photographers, like Nobuyoshi Araki in Japan, Jim Duvall in the United States and Hikari Kesho in Europe.


Naka Akira's show at Toubaku

Bondage as a sexual activity first came to notice in Japan in the late Edo period.[5] Generally recognized as "father of Kinbaku" is Seiu Ito, who started studying and researching Hojōjutsu is credited with the inception of Kinbaku, though it is noted that he drew inspiration from other art forms of the time including Kabuki theatre and Ukiyoe woodblock prints. Kinbaku became widely popular in Japan in the 1950s through magazines such as Kitan Club and Yomikiri Romance, which published the first naked bondage photographs. In the 1960s, people such as Eikichi Osada began to appear performing live SM shows often including a large amount of rope bondage, today these performers are often referred to as Nawashi (rope master) or Bakushi (from kinbakushi, meaning bondage master).

In recent years, Kinbaku has become popular in the Western BDSM scene in its own right and has also profoundly influenced bondage, combining to produce many 'fusion' styles.


Kinbaku is based on fairly specific rope patterns, many of them derived from Hojojutsu ties. Of particular importance are the Ushiro Takatekote (a type of arm box tie), which forms the basis of many Kinbaku ties, and the Ebi, or "Shrimp", which was originally designed as a torture tie and codified as part of the Edo period torture techniques.[citation needed] Today the tie is used as part of SM play and can be considered a form of Semenawa, torture rope.

Generally speaking, Kinbaku is practiced with ropes of 6–8 meters (23 ft) in length.[citation needed] Due to the generally different physique of Western subjects, 8 meter (26 ft) ropes are commonly used in the West.[citation needed] The rope material is usually hemp (or jute) though many other materials are in use including cotton and various synthetics. Various techniques are used to make the natural fiber ropes softer.[citation needed]


Kinbaku patterns[edit]

Most of the below have multiple variations:


French Shibari

Topics in Japanese bondage include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jina Bacarr, The Japanese art of sex: how to tease, seduce, & pleasure the samurai in your bedroom, Stone Bridge Press, LLC, 2004, ISBN 1-880656-84-1, p.185
  2. ^ Christopher Noss, A Text-book of Colloquial Japanese. Based on the Lehrbuch Der Japanischen Umgangssprache by Rudolf Lange, Adamant Media Corporation, ISBN 1-4021-5747-9, p.240
  3. ^ Vee David, The Kanji Handbook, Tuttle Publishing, 2006, ISBN 0-8048-3779-1, p.158,331
  4. ^ Mark Spahn, Wolfgang Hadamitzky, Kimiko Fujie-Winter, The Kanji dictionary, Tuttle Publishing, 1996, ISBN 0-8048-2058-9, p.907,1376
  5. ^ a b Master K, The Beauty of Kinbaku, King Cat Ink, ISBN 978-0-615-24876-9
  6. ^ http://www.likera.com/blog/wp/archives/59
  7. ^ Single wrist binding
  8. ^ Both wrists binding
  9. ^ Hands behind the head tie
  10. ^ Mata nawa shibari
  11. ^ Ebi shibari

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]