Japanese Rope Bondage: An Introduction

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Japanese rope bondage is a style of bondage used in BDSM and other sexual games. It involves tying up the bottom using unique, visually pleasing patterns. This is a traditional Japanese style of bondage and it’s deeply rooted in history. It makes a special connection between the rigger and the model and it’s considered to be a deeply sensual experience.

It’s important to understand that Japanese bondage is often about the way the rope is applied and the way the rope touches the skin. In this sense, the rope becomes an extension of the lover’s hands and it’s used for communication.

People who enjoy being tied up report a state of trance and pleasure of the rope touching their skin. Japanese rope bondage is a highly aesthetic and sensual activity.

What is Japanese Rope Bondage and How Was it Developed?

Sexual bondage first appeared in Japan in the late Edo period. Seiu Ito is recognized as “father of Kinbaku” though he drew inspiration from many sources, including Kabuki theatre as well as Ukiyoe woodblock prints. Kinbaku became widely popular in Japan in the 1950s and it’s becoming more and more popular in the West in the last few decades.

Japanese rope bondage pays special attention to the aesthetic of the bound person’s position. Traditional Japanese techniques use specific forms (katas) and aesthetic rules. In some cases, asymmetrical or uncomfortable positions are employed on purpose.

Japanese rope bondage uses specific rope patterns. Many of them are derived from Hojojutsu ties. The most important are the Ushiro Takatekote, which is a type of arm box tie and Ebi (or “shrimp”), originally designed as a torture tie.

Types of Rope

There are several rope types commonly used, some are traditional Japanese rope types and others are popular Western substitutes. What is important is to use rope made of a natural material, though some people opt for ropes made of synthetic materials.

The Japanese prefer to use three-strand Jute rope (“Asanawa”, commonly translated as “hemp rope”). However, this popular type of rope can be made of other materials. The most common materials used for these ropes are hemp and jute. In traditional bondage techniques, it’s imperative that the rope used is made of natural materials.

There are special techniques applied to make these ropes softer. The natural fibers are excellent for this activity because they easily lock to each other. It means the friction of twists and turns of simple knots can hold the rope together.

In the West, there are many different types of rope used when engaging in Japanese rope bondage play. Traditional hemp and jute ropes or their close equivalents are often used. Some people prefer to use ropes made of other materials, such as cotton. It’s not so rare to use various synthetic materials even though ropes made of natural materials are more popular.

Traditional Japanese rope bondage uses rope that is about 23ft (6-8 meters) in length. People in the West tend to have a different physique so the ropes tend to be longer (26ft – 8 meters).

‘Kinbaku’ vs. ‘Shibari’

The terminology used for Japanese rope bondage can sometimes be confusing because some traditional Japanese words have precise meanings not often understood in the West and at the same time, there are westernised terms often used within the bondage community that don’t really have a traditional Japanese meaning.

Two of the most common words used in Japanese rope bondage are “kinbaku” and “shibari”. Kinbaku (“tight binding”) is the most common Japanese term for sexual bondage. Shibari, on the other hand, is generally considered to be a wrong Western Japanism. This word does denote tying, but in a more generic way and not in the context of sexual bondage.

However, due to a huge popularity of Japanese rope bondage throughout the world, the term “shibari” is becoming more and more common, even in Japan.

What is the difference between kinbaku and shibari? As noted above, “shibari” is a more general term that implies tying, but not necessarily in the sexual sense. It doesn’t describe the whole sensual experience of Japanese rope bondage. In certain Western SM circles, the word “shibari” does refer to the whole experience but this use of the word is not universal.

“Kinbaku”, on the other hand, refers to tying and bondage in the sexual sense. Even more than that: kinbaku is bondage art taken to a spiritual level. Some experts, such as Kinoko Hajime and Osada Steve, consider kinbaku to refer to bondage sessions with a strong emotional exchange.

Image by Snakegirl Productions

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