Disclaimer: Due to the fast pace of this journey, and jetlag, massive sensory overload and general crazy rope-time, these accounts are not always as detailed as I would like them to be. Furthermore, if there is anything factually incorrect, please tell me and I will do my best to amend this.
This was a journey that I decided to do just two weeks prior to departure, but I could never really imagine or think how and what actually would happen. The journey was mainly about attending Toubaku, a rope-festival organized by Hajime Kinoko, but it really turned into something more, something very special. The fact that I have never been to Japan enhanced the excitement prior to departure. Before boarding the plane,flying from Heathrow with a short layover in Italy, my mind was mainly spinning with tiredness, but also trying to focus it on a special mode; the ‘I know nothing’ mode. Coming to Japan and remain in the safe bubble of that which you know, felt like a sorry place to be in. So instead; try to look at all the rope from the angle of ‘First time seeing rope ever’ was the approach I tried to take as the plane lifted.
Arriving, meeting up with travelbuddy and ropemodel extraordinaire J was not as tricky as finding our way to the apartment, clearly an adventure on its own, but was made easier by good directions given by our hosts and a very friendly face (albeit a tad bit tired) that met us at the airport on Friday morning.
After installing ourselves, we headed out to look at the town and get a snack to eat before meeting up with Osada Steve and two friends of mine who I first met at Copenhagen Shibari Dojo.
I must admit there was an element of nervousness in meeting Steve, as well as meeting the other master of rope, the master who would be teaching the evenings class. We headed towards a studio, in which Miura Takumi would give a class to Steve, the Danes called Max and Tina, and a friend of Steve’s, NdT. At this point, I was even more happy about the lovely Danish couple being around, as they gently guided me through points of etiquette. They had already been in Tokyo for a couple of weeks, and would stay there for six weeks, studying and living in the Studio Six, following the disciple/sensei tradition. Seeing them doing this was wonderful, working hard and diligently and with such a sincere will to understand and develop their art, in the same time as they were not afraid of the occasional beer (they are Danes you know..Danes and Beer…).
Upon arrival, we removed the shoes and entered the studio. It was a spacious and calm room, one section for seating and socializing and another for rope-practice. As Takumi arrive, we were all introduced, bowed and then class starts by him speaking of different historical backgrounds of rope in the Japanese culture and religion, before moving on to the tying.
The first minutes I really tried to rationalize, recognize and organize the input into patterns that would fit my own knowledge. It is so easy to do this, everyday we are encouraged to know, to be able to grasp what we see according to our frameworks, to the taxonomies of what we already understand. But as the time passed, it really came back to me, that sense of a need to not do all of this. To just take it in, see it right there and then and not trying to organise, not trying to place think so much of where it all ‘fits’. It is certainly not a simple task, can’t say that I did succeed all the time, but it was much more rewarding to be aware of my own position rather than assuming it and trying to adapt the world according to it. And above all, it highlighted how little I know or understand.
Now, I was asked to not describe the actual ties here on the blog, and after seeing them I certainly can understand why. By really going back to the historical hojojutsu patterns, the ties where effective as well as not for everyone to play with. At this point, NdT joined us, who is someone who have lived for many years in Tokyo. As it where, yours truly was going to be the ropemodel of NdT during this class. After a day of travelling, throwing oneself in to such a place as Tokyo, it was certainly a treat to be tied and by skillfull hands as well.
At one point, I was asked to “pretend like you are a little girl running around in the Japanese countryside” and what else to do but to obey? Usually, fighting back and running around like a mad hatter is not a problem for me (as anyone who has ever met me can vouch for) but with the many hours of travelling+ being nervous, I just turned giggly and silly and thusly, ended up on the floor in a matter of seconds. Which was, indeed, a very good place to be.
Another tie, which was immensly enjoyable was one in which Takumi described as the one in which he uses the largest amount of rope. It felt like gradually being encased in a cocoon of jute, and was also very comfortable as a suspension. This suspension made everything quiet, the world was right there and then and nothing more, nothing less. Slow breathing, exact breathing, a tug of rope here, a limited movement there.
How do you feel about the amount of rope that you use? Some prefer as little as possible, others like using more. Myself, I think I’m in the camp of ‘what ever amount is enough is the right amount’. So one length or 6 or even 10, what works works. Although, being tied myself, I often fall into the ‘a lot of rope is good rope’, but, on the other hand, I have been proven to be wrong on that on more than one occation. The challenge to turn one rope into all that you need is very fun, and to be on the receiving end of such an experience is intense to say at least. In a later blogpost, this experience will be explored.
After the class, NdT asked me and the travelfriend if we wanted to go and experience a mistress-bar, and how could we say no to this offer? Or actually, poor travelbuddy wanted to sleep, but mad skills of persuasion and the very kind offer from NdT’s part, convinced her as well. But this, dear readers, is a story which will have to wait until later.
Thank you for reading these posts, any kind of feedback, thoughts or questions are always welcome. Questions I can’t answer will of course be redirected to those more knowledgeable individuals and fellow kinbaku lovers.