Kimbaku artist Kinoko Hajime creates special bonds

By Shinobu Mochizuki

Since World War II, the schizophrenic city of Tokyo has a well-documented substratum to compare with its skyscrapers and citizens racing each other to reach the sky. Tokyo’s rich underground culture takes many bizarre and diverse forms. Fetish culture, such as S&M and cosplay, are just the tip of the iceberg of the sex-related industry, in which the pioneering Japanese have invented many genres of their own.

"Shibari" —Japanese bondage — is the perfect example. Despite the fact that a natural human sensibility underlies this art of rope, it is often belittled by society owing to its fetishist origins.

Japan’s leading rope artist-cum-"kimbakushi" (Japanese bondage master) Kinoko Hajime has been in the field for over a decade now, and is renowned for his mad rope techniques and sheer artistic qualities. He dominates the field of inanimate object bondage, which involves tying up such things as roast pork, figurines, and even Mount Fuji’s Sea of Trees; and cyber rope, a neo-kimbaku which harnesses black light and fluorescent colored ropes to create a spectacle of light and silhouette. His artworks evoke not only eroticism but nostalgia, maternal love and other sensations amid spectators. Kinoko’s world is somewhat like a dense fog; it transfigures the world, while embracing you in its aura. But no-one can explain it as well as the artist himself.

“Kimbaku is a sect within the shibari (rope) philosophy,” explains Hajime. “It’s a method of communication exclusively between people, whereas shibari can be practiced with objects. In the grand theater of kimbaku the bondagees are the protagonists and the kimbakushi are just the supporting actors. What the kimbakushi do is to perceive, then depict, the subject’s aspirations, and the character of the moment. They do this by using their hands, which in our case is the rope. Factors such as superficial tension, sweat, respiration, corporal oscillation and the pulse of the bondagee are important information, which the rope transmits to us. Therefore each piece of kimbaku has its unique color.”

Hajime hopes to spread this philosophy and transform the opinion of society. Cyber rope was invented by the artist and his followers as a gateway to rope for general audiences, putting more emphasis on the entertainment side of kimbaku. And it is far more accessible to the first-time viewer. In the darkness, the bondagee appears as a silhouette with the UV-sensitive colored ropes exploding into view under the introduction of black light.

However, the standard shibari wins many converts among people who might have expected something seedier and more grotesque. Spectators are surprised by the gentleness and sensitivity of the performance, something which explores the complexity of certain base human emotions and creates something unique every time. There is something more than just manual dexterity at work in the performance of the artists.

“After a kimbakushi obtains a certain range of techniques it is his/her qualities as a human being that define his/her skills,” says Hajime. “In order to understand and express the instantaneous innermost nature of a bondagee, you must be sensitive and perceptive. Naturally these essentialities can’t be taught. Just as there are always people you get along with and those with whom you just don’t.”

To take your first ropy steps in this arcane art, head to Kinoko’s own bar in Shibuya, Bar Sleeping Beauty, for his workshop Shishioto-Nawa-Kai, on the first and third Sunday every month. Beginners take classes from 4-7:20 p.m. Classes are 2,000 yen each, though first time attendees must pay membership (men 7,000 yen and women 2,000 yen). For private lessons with the maestro himself, email kinoko@shibari.jp. Find out more about Kinoko at http://shibari.jp/en.

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

The membership price is very revealing (if it's correct) - women pay so little because chances are good that they'll be the ones being tied up, and therefore not learn very much about the art? Or is it just that men are more likely to quit after a couple of classes?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I think women would be very reluctant to tie up a female person, even when their inner feeling tells them that it would be interesting, unless they are lez and S. On the other hand, once into it, the gentle roping hand of a woman makes that object appear much more as an object of art than of fetish, and viewers might interpret it different when they know it was done by a woman.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

" a female person"? What an interesting choice of words to follow on directly from your use of "women". I wonder how many women do shibori, and do they mostly do it using men?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I read the article, and didn't understand it. Tying people up with coloured ropes as an art form, I can just about understand - people do weird things in the name of art - but all that stuff about mad rope techniques, nostalgia, maternal love and other sensations and the instantaneous innermost nature of a bondagee is way beyond me. I don't think I'd pay to see it, and certainly not to have lessons in it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Cleo - I have a few male person friends here (he-he) who rave about it, as an art form. I don't get it myself, and passed on the opportunity to see a shibori 'exhibition'. Not my cup of tea. It's mutton tied up as lamb.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Yet again, I find myself wishing I lived closer to Tokyo. It looks really quite interesting and would be neat to learn some techniques. You never know when you may want to tie someone up safely and display them in an artistic way in the tatami room's alcove :D

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't much like it when people get all metaphysical and philosophical about sexual kinks. Mind you, sexual kinks are fine. But I suspect the fluff is there to try and attract women. I am just not enough of a bullcrap artist to float it. No way I could keep a straight face.

Besides, if you want to tie up girls, there are less mentally exhausting ways of doing it, and you get to keep your pride and your soul.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites