How long have you been involved with japanese bondage? What triggered your interest?
I started tying my first wife in 1984. I’ve been visiting Japan on business for 25 years. In 1997 I accidentally found myself in an SM bar and saw a dominatrix tie and whip a man. I’d seen late 1970s Scandinavian porn magazines with rope bondage as the background to the images in 1981, and under-the-counter rope bondage fetish magazines, probably House of Milan publications. I had fantasies about restraining ladies so I could have free access to ’the forbidden fruit’ since early puberty. Not long after we married (I was 21, she 18), my first wife told me she wanted to play, and I had to learn what that meant. I’d been in the Boy Scouts. I knew how to sail. Combined with my fantasies and having cotton rope available, rope bondage was my logical route. You have to understand that what we did was in absolute secrecy. There was no scene, and we feared if anybody, and I mean anybody knew what we were doing, we might be arrested. There were Draconian laws back then in the UK and BDSM activity was considered criminally deviant. Younger generations don’t seem to appreciate what it was like. This history determines how exposed I wish to be, and why I stick very much to an underground scene where very few, if any ‘riggers’ are present.
I don’t believe ‘Japanese Bondage’ actually exists. Or rather, that it’s a western invention for profit. Rope bondage is just rope bondage, and the Japanese are influenced at the same basic human sexual desire level as another other nationality. What makes them different is their general acceptance of kink and fetishes occurred 40 years before ours, so they’re much more evolved. Plus, their cultural-societal differences, e.g. having no concept of chastity, or monotheism. In reality, all rope bondage in Japan since the Second World War is cross-pollinated and influenced by external sources, e.g. John Willie, Irvine Klaw, Bettie Page, Rick Savage, etc. I think it’s westerners looking through rose-tinted glasses who desire some kind of Japanese cultural esoteric or, as I say, manipulating what they think is Japanese for their own vested interests. If they were to actually see what the Japanese are doing on the underground SM and fetish scene, they might be very, very shocked. I can’t say I’ve ever seen the grotesque nature, or the extreme sexual deviancies combined with rope in the West that you see in Japan, and the western sadomasochistic elements also seem very tame. Therefore, is ‘Japanese Bondage’ a western dumbing–down based around a handful of exported ’names’ who aren’t really taken that seriously in Japan? Did the term ‘Western Bondage’ actually exist before some Gaijin invented ‘Japanese Bondage’?
How did you first start? How did your knowledge and experience evolved?
With my first wife, the goal seemed to keep my libido suppressed by being busy tying and dominating, while hers had time to boil with passion, so we both came to climax together. Rope bondage ALWAYS involved domination and sado-eroticism, and ALWAYS ended in sex. Without even thinking about words like ’suspension’ I would sometimes tie her in a kind of love swing that I could play with her and fuck her in. The period after 1997 was quite unique. I was being very well paid, first as a consultant, and then CTO of a company and I’d invented a device taken on by a major Japanese corporation. I had the luxury of being flown Business Class, accommodated in great hotels, with all my expenses paid AND getting a great salary plus a bonus for being away from home. Pink theatres, SM and Happening bars are not cheap. With travel and extra hotel (and love hotel) bills it might cost well over €1,000 for a weekend. But I could afford to get right into this underground scene and make many friends. Mostly, I would absorb by observation. Occasionally, you might be able to approach somebody in a SM or Happening bar to show you a trick or two. Sometimes, if I hadn’t worked out something I might ask somebody to teach me 1-on-1 and pay the several hundred Euros so I could understand where I was going wrong. Mostly I got better through tying many different ladies and understanding how to read the fluidity of desire, consent and libido. I’ve done hundreds of live sessions at underground events all over the world, and this helps when you get into a bubble with the partner, exclude the rest of the world, and tie spontaneously with no preconceived plan. All this while being very careful about images, because my clientele demand absolute discretion.
Did you come across shibari/kinbaku in your own town/country? Was there a community in your own local area?
My first wife and I were inseparable for the first 10 years. But my first invention led to constant international travel. Being away for long periods, she found a new circle of friends that would ultimately lead to divorce and her entering a 24/7 BDSM second marriage. Then by chance I got a Japanese girlfriend who was kinky, and she introduced me to the pink theatre, SM and Happening bar scene. There was no community at home. When I moved to Germany, unplanned I got a woman pregnant and married her. Apart from a wonderful son, the relationship was a disaster. I couldn’t look for the local German scene because she could cause a lot of trouble. So I continued in the Japanese scene, sometimes visiting as much as 8 times per year. I thought it was my little secret and had no idea anybody in the West knew anything about the SM and kink scene in Japan. It was only after my divorce that a friend took me to a German club and I got a slave on her knees before me within 30 minutes. Soon afterwards, we went together to a big latex disco event and there was somebody doing a show, tying. This was summer 2013. After he finished I asked him which friends of mine and clubs he knew in Japan. He told me he’d never been to Japan. I was shocked that people were doing rope bondage here. They were calling it ‘Japanese Bondage’ or Shibari, but apart from the form, I couldn’t then, and still rarely see any relationship to what I see on the underground scene in Japan. He told me he’d learnt from a guy who’d learned from a German guy called Steve who lived in Tokyo. I’d never heard anything about him in the circles I mixed in from Kobe to Utsunomiya.
This (actually Swiss) guy brought me into contact with the fledgling local scene. But I didn’t stay long. It just seemed so alien. They were talking about dogma that I never see in Japan. They seemed only interested in that and the technical aesthetics, and I couldn’t see any point to it. What I was doing didn’t fit their narrow perspective. They never discussed how to enthuse your partner and bring them to euphoria, how the play determines the position, and then how the rope will naturally fit to the body. They avoided all the elements I knew from Japan, like limb, joint, muscle and nerve manipulation, the sexual deviancy, eroticism, sadomasochism, and the understanding of emotional–psychological–physical dynamics, even the ’shits and giggles’ fun elements (if you’ve ever played in Japan, you’ll know how sometimes you can be left crying with laughter… together). Only 5 years ago rope bondage was still a minority interest in the fetish and kink world. Now it is predominant. I helped start the first named ’Nawakai’ outside Japan in Munich, and immediately walked back into the shadows. When I ‘came out’ in the German language scene in 2013 I could count the people doing rope bondage on both hands. Now there are 4 groups and more than 600 participants in Munich from a population of 1.2 million, and it grows all the time.
Did your friends, partners know about your new interest? If yes, what was their response?
One particular friend figured out who I was by my mannerisms. He caught me out by showing me an image of rope bondage and he knew when I accidentally used the correct Japanese word for something. He was the one who brought me into the German scene. Family members were either curious or didn’t want to know. My last 2 partners were from the kink scene. Most of my friends are still in Japan. I do struggle a little relating to western riggers, sadly.
Is there something you miss on how things used to be?
I miss the times before the superficiality and people with little maturity inventing ‘workshop modules’ to sell empty rhetoric to naive beginners. I miss the times before the Vanilla people began coming in and trying to tell us that it’s a sport, or yoga, or aesthetics, or martial art, etc., and not sexual deviancy. I miss the times where you found your own way, rather than being coerced to copy a generated ‘name’ who generally copies others that went before. I miss the times when it was about the two players, and not about the damn knots, rope, styles, dogma and schools. I miss the realism before the Social Media celebrities and page likes all doing pretty much the same boring stuff on a very, very long bandwagon.
Are there things that you like on how the scene has envolved in the community that you are active (local or international)? Are there things that you don’t like?
Because I am not a rigger*, I tend not to get too involved with the ‘scene’. I just get on with enjoy with ladies looking for what I can entertain them with and what we do together. I don’t like the cultural misappropriation, and because most of my close friends are in Japan, I see them becoming aware and angry about some of the nonsense. I’m constantly depressed by the unwitting wanting to copy what they think are somebody else’s ties (that they themselves have absorbed from somewhere before anyway), when we should be trying to help educate individuals to find their own idiosyncratic ways. I worry about the toxic narcissist ‘gurus’ within our midsts attempting to own what can never be monopolised. I worry more about those rushing to teach before they’ve actually learned much beyond the macramé. I worry about some people’s motives. I worry about some of the immaturity. I worry that most seem to hang on the coattails of a few mediocre celebrities without understanding the depth and diversity available by much more credible sources.
*You’re probably wondering what I call myself if not a ‘rigger’. I’m Sin. Just Sin. I don’t go in for titles. I don’t believe in schools, styles or grandmasters. My aim is not to ‘rig’, although I am very capable of doing suspensions. My singular goal is to take my play partner to where she wants to go, wherever that is, so she’s hungry to come back for more.
How would you describe your style? Did you have some crucial influences?
My style is my own. It has to be to be able to be authentic, trustworthy and credible to the ladies I tie. I think of it as sado–erotic. If I have to choose a Japanese word it would be Kannōnawa (sensual/erotic/carnal rope, 官能縄), but it’s totally unimportant. I use a lot of psychology and Japanese Anma techniques hidden within the domination. I love the mind fuck and bringing about masochistic/sexual euphoria through subtle restraint.
I suppose Akechi is an influence. Not his rope, but his sexual deviancy and creative spirit. He was thus the benchmark for most Japanese of my generation, and I try to rise beyond this with my work and see his influence is a benchmark to go beyond. As for technique, I’ve absorbed from many I’ve seen live, worked or played with. But I’ll note my friend Ero Ouji, because we had such fun times together tying girls in SM bars. Especially Nagare Aotsuki, considered top Dom in Japan for the psychological effect. Shigonawabingo, who helped with etiquette and philosophy. The time I had with Yukimura and how it began to shape my approach to the female sexual psyche. The incredible ideas I absorbed from Jyubei Kamui and Haru–to–Kyou, so by association, Akechi Denki and the great Matsui Kenji, and undoubtedly many more. I’ve taken ideas from images and writings of Seiu Ito, Kunai Yukio, Oshita Soichiro, Ueda Seishiro, Suma Toshiyuki, Tsujimura Takeshi, Dan Oniroku, Nureki Chimuo, Urado Hiroshi, Kazami Ranki, Nawanojyoh, Tesshin Doyama, Yoi Yoshida, Towa, Kasumi Hourai, Kamijoo Saki, Hige und Kanna (Okay, for Kanna, see Akechi), and probably many more. But the majority of everything I have ever learned has been in observation of and reflection from the ladies I work with. This is where the discovery is most important.
Would you like to add something more?
I hope that throughout this terrible pandemic, people survive it and have time to reflect on their motivations for doing rope bondage, or whatever foreign word they wish to use for it. Maybe they can grow to find their own paths with their partners, and realise that their individual way is the only true one. I think people will come to better recognise narcissistic opportunists, because they’re fairly easy to spot – they feel entitled to be the sole source of authority, attempt to monopolize and sabotage perceived competition. They quash what’s best for the individual. They promise false hopes, like learning complex elements that cannot be easily coached. They prey on novices, exchanging minimum value for a grandiose sense of entitlement, cultivating unwitting followers to justify them, doing things only permitted their ‘way’. I hope that after the crisis is over, that we can find ways to help each person find their own ways to enjoy rope bondage, and for them to grow and go on to enthuse others.
Quietly, I’m involved with expanding an underground ‘scene’ in Europe very similar to the pink theatres in Japan. When the crisis is over, like the epicurean events and parties I’m paid well to perform live sessions at, this new subterranean ‘pink’ circuit could be an outlet for those wishing to escape the peer rope / workshop / rigger scene. It could be that I persuade several of my friends in Japan to come over and participate.