Kinbaku – history in a nutshell

You can ignore its rich history and cultural undertones and just enjoy this form of bondage. But why would you? Read more about this art of erotic restraint to gain new appreciation for it. Here we’ll provide you with a brief history and some additional info.

History – bitesize

First of all, the rope – it’s a pretty ancient invention (the oldest rope we know of dates back to around 28,000 years ago) used for countless purposes. As it is usually the case, the roots of the invention can be traced to the art of war. You need to capture and torture your enemy somehow and that’s when the rope comes in handy. Then, in times of peace, there’s always time for some lighthearted entertainment. The history of erotic rope bondage seems to be just another example of this pattern.

Let’s take a quick look at some Japanese history: The Sengoku period (1492-1600) was a time of unrest and cruelty. Ropes were used to restrain and punish the prisoners and there was nothing sexy or aesthetic about it.

Yoshitaki-Utagawa-Okiku-in-Distress(half)

The Edo period (1600-1867) was when the matters started to go in the right direction. It was a time of (self-imposed) isolation, which allowed Japan to experience its longest period of peace. The foundation of penal code was introduced (in 1742). The only things that should interest us in this context are: kinds of punishments and law enforcement officials. There were four kinds of torture/punishment, two of which are important for our considerations: being tied by the rope and being hung by it (the other two being the pressing stone and the whip).

Apprehension and punishment of the criminals was the duty of lower class officials who, in a way, managed to turn it into an art – a martial art- hojojutsu. It became popular in the 15th century and is still practiced today (e.g. by the Japanese police force). Hojojutsu uses the rope to quickly capture and safely restrain the enemy (effective on the battlefield and very useful to the law enforcement). Back then the whole enterprise was a very serious and pretty complicated matter. You needed the right kind of rope for the prisoner’s profession, gender, class etc. and had to take into account even such things as the season of the year. Mistakes would dishonor the official AND the prisoner.

At some point, torturing and punishment became a public and theatrical event. After all, people love a good show and there’s nothing more titillating than to see others suffer pain and humiliation, right? Artists were also happy to provide: ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) depicted torture and punishment and Kabuki theatre combined corporeal punishment with sex. To sum it up: themes of torture & punishment became entertainment. Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? You can say that war, art & human nature gave us a wonderful mixture of rope bondage and sex.

Modernity

Seiu Ito is a name that appears around a lot. An ukiyo-e master, painter, photographer and writer, Ito is seen by most as the “father” of kinbaku. He was interested and inspired by hojōjutsu, ukiyo-e prints and Kabuki.

Kinbaku became popular in the ‘50s thanks to several Japanese magazines, like Kitan Club and Yomikiri Romance (1st naked bondage photographs). In the ‘60s, people such as Eikichi Osada began to appear performing live SM shows often including large helpings of rope bondage.

Shibari or kinbaku?

These terms are treated by some as interchangeable whereas others are irritated by such simplifications and prefer to differenciate between them. We, on the other hand, really don’t care how you call what you do as long as you enjoy it. ^.^ From what we’ve noticed shibari tends to be seen as being more focused on aesthethics whereas kinbaku is usually perceived as having more practical approach. Shibari became an acceptable term thanks to the western BDSM scene. They insisted on the use of this word so much that now you never know if you should tag your photos (or search for) shibari or kinbaku…

The linguist inside us:

しば 縛り [shibari]
Noun
1. binding
2. regulation; limit
decorative tying of stuff (such erotic activities as tying a ribbon around a present). It’s not commonly associated with bondage.
緊縛 [kinbaku]
Noun, Suru verb
1. bind tightly
2. (sexual) bondage

TL;DR version:

Rope: versatile, ancient invention. You can restrain and torture enemies with it. The Edo period (1600-1867): foundation of crime laws introduced (in 1742); among other kinds of torture/punishments: tied by the rope + hung by it. Lower class officials catch & punish criminals. They use Hojojutsu: martial art still practiced today by the Japanese police, uses the rope to quickly capture and restrain. It used to be a serious and complicated matter chock full of rules. After a while torturing and punishment became public events. Artists started to portray them as well: ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) depicted torture and punishment, Kabuki theatre showed torture & sex. 20th century: kinky erotic magazines in Japan showed art of people inspired by old masters which led to popularisation of kinbaku.

Talent, honor, discipline, and pretty pictures!

If you like the examples of ukiyo-e used above you should definitely visit ukiyo-e.org, it’s an amazing source of Japanese woodblock prints.

M.