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5 misconceptions about 'shibari,' Japanese rope bondage

10 Comments
By Brooke Larsen

Kinkster or no, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of shibari, Japanese rope bondage. Perhaps you’ve perused pictures of this sensual and twisted practice, puzzling over what on earth could possibly inspire people to bind and gag each other for fun. Maybe you’ve even felt embarrassingly enchanted by this mysterious erotic pastime and wish to know more. Fear not, curious reader, for all your questions are about to be answered! Let’s dive right in and debunk five of the most common misconceptions about shibari.

1. It’s not actually called "shibari."

First things first, it’s called kinbaku in Japan.

That’s right—the one thing you thought you did know is wrong! Down is up and up is down in the topsy-turvy world of Japanese rope bondage, where people enjoy things like excruciating pain or getting hung upside for uncomfortable periods of time. But more on that later.

Shibari isn’t the wrong term for Japanese rope bondage per se; it’s just it doesn’t quite cut it. Shibari (or shibaru) is a general term in Japanese meaning “to tie.” Kinbaku is a more specific word which involves weaving intricate knots for binding and suspending people for erotic and sometimes artistic purposes. Kin (緊) means “tight” and baku (縛) is “restraint.”

The term shibari has become much more common internationally as the practice has spread and been adapted for non-Japanese audiences and aficionados. If you say shibari in Japan people will probably know what you’re talking about, but kinbaku is definitely preferred among locals.

2. It’s not some sacred, ancient art every Japanese person secretly participates in.

Many have dubbed kinbaku an “ancient Japanese knot-tying technique” but that’s not quite accurate. Though kinbaku has its roots in a practice called hojojitsu used to bind prisoners in Japan a few hundred years ago, kinbaku as we know it wasn’t even a thing until the early 1900s. It didn’t become popular in Japan until the post-war period of the 1950s. For instance, Japanese people and American soldiers traded pulp magazines depicting tied up women during the occupation.

Modern kinbaku is done for pleasure, not punishment, and involves at least two people: the “rope top” or “rigger” (the dominant person doing the tying) and the “rope bottom” (the submissive person being tied). Sometimes these two people switch roles; other times, more than one person might tie or get tied up at the same time.

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10 Comments
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I saw a documentary about some guy who gets paid insane amounts of money BY WOMEN to tie them up. I was like "DAMN!!! I'm in the wrong business!!"

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Japan is an amazing country.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I will admit that was one of the hottest Youtube picks I've seen on JT.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Can't believe I was roped into this thread which strung us all along and left me tongue-tied with a final thought, to be or knot to be!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Jessie - Good one, but you could have stopped at tongue-tied, lol.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Think it is directly related to niwaki and bonsai...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The late chef Anthony Bourdain showed this on the CNN TV series Parts Unknown: Tokyo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Va6i7K9TFRo

For instance, Japanese people and American soldiers traded pulp magazines depicting tied up women during the occupation.

Wait, ya can trade for these?!?!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Are Shibari devotees part of the LGBTQI diaspora? Or is it yet another form of sexual deviation?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is so goofy. How am I supposed to do this with kids running around the house?

Mommy’s a little tied up at the moment, but maybe daddy can help you.

Yeah, right.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Shibari is not sexual.... yeah, yeah...

And I watch Brazzers because I’m studying low-budget mass film production.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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