So, finally the weekend that I had been waiting for arrived. The London Shibari Festival, or rather, the London festival of the art of Japanese Rope Bondage. Don’t try to say it too quick to many times, it will just twist your tongue. The opening night of the festival had an all Japanese line-up with the members of Ichinawa-kai, a rope-collective from Tokyo, lead by Kinoko himself. A description of this group in the program read:
You could say that Ichinawa-kai is similar in many respects to the peer-rope projects that are taking place all over Europe these days, where both devotee’s and aficionado’s from all back grounds and age groups can meet upon common ground. Hajime Kinoko likes to refer to the group as a ‘Comprehensive Kinbaku Entertainment Organisation’ which in Western terms might be better described as affiliation, collective or co-operative. In simple terms; the kindred spirit. Everyone involved takes Kinbaku seriously and dedicates a great deal of time and energy to continually develop their wider understanding of the art. However, it is not all serious! Within the group there is a sense of openness and fun…
In the months leading up to the festival, a lovely letter came from Kinoko and with that more information about the group itself. You can read more of that here. On the first night of the festival, the lineup for the shows consisted of the members of the Ichinawa-Kai, i.e. that is a completely Japanese line-up in Europe. It must have been a first. I had 4 people visiting for this occation, including the amazing Niki who was my bunny, or a bunny (rope-slut <3) for the weekend, and two new found friends, and one person who recently discovered rope, the Doctor. We made our way to the venue after a delicious Indonesian meal, and got seated on front row. And boy were we in for a treat!
First performance was with a favourite female kinbakushi of mine, Yoi. Her performance at Toubakutouched me deeply, and she was now back with the same model. The concept this time was much more simple, there was less play and a very much traditional, straightforward rope-session, displaying the models body but also torturing it through difficult poses or through suuchi-nawa, shame and exposure. Yoi is a very special rigger who has an incredibly calm presence, and a no fuss way of doing rope. A friend of mine described her as a very stern madam. That very same friend then developed a huge crush on this only female kinbakushi in the collective. I could definitely understand why. Yoi could be the kind of teacher that would show up and a whole class room would get quiet simply through her presence. With her tiny model, (who is going to to remain un-named) I got a sense that this scene was about disciplinary measures, the model very petite, rather school-girl like.
The model entered the stage carrying a single red candle. As she sat down, Yoi reached over her shoulder and opened the underskirt, lit another large white candle, took the red candle away and pushed the white one into the mouth of the model, remarkably deep. As the candle wax slowly dropped, the model sat still, only ever shivering ever so slightly, waiting.
Yoi’s tying is functional, but with beautiful lines and maximum exposure of the model. She is one heck of a rigger and a sadist; applying plenty of crotch-rope, while looking completely nonplussed as her model squirmed from the tight ropes. Yoi did not make any large movements, but it was in her calm presence and the precarious situation of her model that we as a audience could rest in. The stern madam, controlling the room she was in. The purposeful but still understated way of tying played with both the shame and the shyness of the model, where the part where the exposed genitals was not framed as a big reveal, instead it just was a simple development of what was already there. The model was tied into a demanding yoko zuri- sideways suspension, and once more had the candle in her mouth. Once untied from the suspension, the previously mentioned crotch-rope came into action. As a result, the model was finally carried off stage, a faint smile mixed with a blissed out look.
Shigure was next on stage. Him and his model was remarkably different, especially since she was not a very tiny one, even by Western standards. We get used to seeing the tiny models from photos and performances, but this was a very strong reminder of the wide spectra of people who love rope. Her body, although larger than usual was also strong and beautiful, and it was indeed liberating to see rope on this level with this kind of model. I must also say that this performance, although not extremely showy, was one of my favourites, because of their immensely strong connection, their relationship really shone through the ropes in an almost overpowering manner. There was a special way in how they interacted and how she was exposed to the audience, or rather, not as exposed as many of the other models. When she shifted position, he made sure her Juban was covering her, the way he looked at her and treated her made me as an onlooker almost ashamed of butting in on what seemed to be a very private session. But they still tied in front of an audience, and managed to merge that very special gap between creating something captivating and still staying true to themselves. They both started out kneeling on stage, him closing his eyes and then opening them again, fixating them on a point just above her neck. Her eyes were closed, but it was possible to feel the focus of them both. As he started to tie, it became so clear that he tied so intensly with his whole heart, that he tied for both of their sake. It was the small things; the way in which he looked at her, the way in which he wiped the sweat of his forehead with a cloth, then he did the same thing for her. His hands were precise, seeing with them where the rope went rather than trying to look and she responded to every single touch, with a calm confidence. She was tied into another yoko zuri, but completely different from the previous one we saw with Yoi. When she was mid-air, Shigure took a tenugui and covered her face, to then pour water all over the cloth. Waterboarding mid suspension. Nothing forced or over theatrical, but still intense. After this she progressed beautifully into a guyaku ebi. There was a quiet moment here, when he took her face, held it with both of his hands and they looked into each others’ eyes. Both me and my friend the Doctor was deeply touched by this. He spoke about it later and said that it was a display of two people who were very happy together, and that they shared that happiness with us as an audience.It was a display of deep love and happiness. There was so many expressions of deep emotions and devotion to each other but it did not get sleazy, au contraire, it just was about their journey together. This intensity was palpable, and what made it more special was that they were one of the couples who wished to not have their performance recorded in any way. Instead it was a performance which they did for each other and chose to share it with the us, the audience. A truly unique experience.
Next on stage was Bingo, who got to represent a very interesting kind of sadism, the subtle sadism perhaps, if that is the correct word. Him and his model, the extraordinarily beautiful Akane, came up on the stage together, her with purple rope wrapped around the neck.
He started by wrapping that rope up and showing how it was connected to the arms that werealready tied behind her back, then started to tie her into a takate kote.
This followed by tying her legs, then suspending her sideways, a sideways suspension which then progressed into an inverted suspension. It was beautiful to see the way in which he progressed in these, because it was not just about the shape, but also about the levels. It went from being a fairly low suspension to a higher one, as time went by. Incredibly dynamic. The way in which the sadism was ‘subdued’ then was that it was not the kind of sadism which utilise direct heavy force, but it was the little things, the small expressions of it, tugging slightly on a rope, the way in which the explosive parts came during the transitions and progressions of the suspension and the heavy handed smacks on Akane’s buttocks, which left huge marks, only after getting her arse hit two or three times. The best way I feel to describe this was through using the word graceful, there was so much grace and poise throughout the performance,subtle sadism and with a very strong soundtrack it was yet again a show which left me and my friends in a rather quiet and contemplative mood.
Next person up on stage was Ero Ouji and his m’jo who was dressed in a white kimono with a red hairband, red which became a reoccurring colour during the performance. They started by her sitting right at the edge of the stage, him standing further back. Through the sound of his sandals slamming down into the stage, he marked his presence and she bowed for the audience (and him).
She bowed as deeply physically possible, remaining absolutely still, and the submission she displayed made the hairs in the neck stand right up. He walked closer, very slowly,while she remained in her deep bow. He took a hold of her very resolutely, tied a very strict 3TK, before starting to remove her kimono. She twitched, tensed up, then relaxed, before standing naked in front of the crowd. He removed the hairband, which was then transformed into a tightly tied fundoshi, savouring the moment of her squirming, forcing her to hold the front part of the fabric with her mouth. The way in which they interacted was electrical, the Doctor described it as if he ‘really, really wanted her’.
We then got to see how she was tied to a bamboo-pole that was suspended. All the transitions then took place through the pole, which acted as a mid-beam. When she was fully inverted he took out a large single tail which handle was encrusted with diamond-like stones and started whipping her. It looked amazingly impressive and was indeed a show, but I noticed somewhat of an interesting part which I would like to talk about a bit. When he started to tie the pole together with her, the focus shifted from being one which was about a very strong connection to one which was about the show, about the expressions and the technicalities of this very impressive rig. There is a balance there that all performers thread, and I really liked the showmanship together with the craft he displayed in this show. What we cannot forget was his wonderful rope-partner, expressive and incredibly strong.
The last performer of the evening was also one of the main performers, Kazami Ranki. Known as the ‘Atrocious Nawashi’ due to some very sadistic movies he has made. Seeing this man in action during the weekend actually wanted me to rename him as the ‘Smiling Nawashi’. Him and his model Gestalta had only met that very day, but this did not show at all in the performance. As it started, they flirted with each other in a very understated way, he smiled, their eyes met, he started tying, their eyes met again, he smiled even more. There was a great preciseness, no nonsense way in his style of tying, a preciseness that brought out so much of the elegant beauty of Gestalta, but moreover, how they moved together, how it was something they did together, and needed each other to do what they did. There was not much of the expected ‘atrociousness’, but instead we were treated to beautiful rope.At one point, Gestalta was suspended, he kneeled down, seemed to ask her is she was ok, she nodded and then he did a straight pull, pushing her into a single ankle inverted suspension. This, together with the insanely beautiful hair of Gestalta, which was revealed at this point, made it look like she was floating through the air, although she was in an intensely demanding position which very few people can pull off. This was indeed one of the main-acts, and it was wonderful to see him making the rope to be all about the one that he was tying, an understated way of introducing himself and what he loves to do. Later he wrote a letter which was published on Fetlife, explaining the way in which he tied and felt about it:
I truly appreciate that the organisers invited me and gave me such an opportunity.
Also thanks to all staff for looking after me very much.
This time, my Kinbaku performances were in the very simple form which does not include a whip nor a candle, unlike my ‘hard’ style which you have known.
It is because I thought that I would pull out M-jo gestalta’s beauty just by using only rope.
With her, detailed communication was taken through the interpreters.
Then my performance have become that form.
Although I am not sure how it was projected in your eyes,
I think that the view of the world of me and gestalta was able to be taken out.
It was honorable that I could teach rope bondage to non-Japanese students in the workshop in London.
At first I thought that bad things would be checked and corrected according to the method of your own style of Kinbaku.
However, when I heard that you wanted to learn Kazami’s own style, I really was moved and I appreciated it.
I hope there will be another opportunity which I can teach more Kazami’s Kinbaku style.
I would like to do my very best so that people in the world may further raise their passion and stronger love for Kinbaku.
I am looking forward to meeting everyone again.
Thank you for reading this far. There are plenty of more posts in the pipeline, after all, this was only the beginning of the festival…