Tag Archives: toubaku

The Q&A during Toubaku

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. I also sadly did not have time to see all the performances nor write down as much as I’ve would have like to. Also, please, if you know the name of the various model’s that the rope-artists worked with, please post. They deserve to be named and get as much credit as the riggers themselves, as they truly shined throughout the event.

A section of the program that I was really looking forward to was the Q&A, or talkshow as they had billed it in the program. The participants was be Esinem (E), Shin (S) and Midori (M) who all brought some different points to the table. As it was an international event, it was very exciting to hear the different experiences of these riggers, and I for one would love a longer session of these kinds of talks, as they are quite good in terms of gaining a broader sense of understanding the practices and the individuals behind them.
Once again, some very well needed translation was provided by NdT which was very appreciated. My pen was not as fast as some of the respondents, so here comes a condensed version of the Q&A.

Q: When did you first discover an interest in rope?

E: I first discovered rope about 12 years ago from a magazine, and then realizing its potential as something that could act as more than a restraint.

S: Me and my wife moved to Japan in 2003, when we started to find clubs and classes together.

M: I remember seeing it very early, becoming entranced by it. A bit later I travelled to San Fransisco, in a time where the scene was still very underground. I then went on to study rope between 92 and 97.

Q: Where have you performed with your rope?

E: I have performed at various venues in the UK, such as Torture Garden, Subversion and also around in Europe. I also give classes and tuitions regularly as well as play in private.

S: In terms of play in public, the relativley small economy of the Taiwanese BDSM-scene  does not provide much opportunities to have public parties. But people sometimes organize smaller events in private studios. Me and my wife also had a dedicated space for rope in our apartment, but since the arrival of our daughter this has now been redecorated into a nursery.

(Crowd: ahhhhhhh).

Q: What do you think are the differences between Japanese and non-Japanese rope?

E: I think there are huge differences in terms of that in the West, people have only recently started to understand the potential of rope-bondage to me something more than just restraint, that it is about the journey one takes with the rope.

M: There is certainly differences and sometimes what we can see in photos is not what happens in the moment. A photo is often lacking that, a photo can’t tell us everything.

S: Rope is relatively small in Taiwan, but I have noticed a difference in that there is much more resistance at work in European bondage. They are all smiling and fighting!

M: In the West, SM and Shibari is much more intertwined and mixed in play. There is the elements of takedowns, capture and restraint, in which the model is fighting back. Furthermore, there is also much more communitybased events, even large conventions, such as Shibaricon, where 1000’s of people attend.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

E: I want to continue to develop both personally and professionally, first of all with the London Festival of the Art of Japanese Bondage.
On another level, I would like to bring more mainstream culture into my performances, such as incorporating ballet. The performances at Toubaku has been hugely inspiring.

S: I also found this festival to be hugely inspiring in regards to rope. I have learned so much about atmosphere from here, and have truly been reminded that it when you tie, everything is in the heart.

E: I also would like to bring more Japanese Kinbakushi’ to Europe, for teaching and performance, instead of having people looking at pictures and trying to emulate the ties without understanding them.

M: I’m interested in continuing performing in non-sexualized spaces, such as museums and art galleries. And of course, also to continue to do shibari with a clear mind.

That was all of what there was from the Q&A session at Toubaku. I found several points here really interesting, such as the different levels on which shibari works, both personal and professional.
First of all, rope in a larger context; depending on where you are in the world, there is certain rope’cultures’. Not only ‘the Japanese’, but ‘The West’ are assumed  categories, that we might think we know a lot about, but most of the time it is better to ask than to assume. The US community based, broad kind of activism is not the same as the more individualistic approach in the U.K. Tying is different not only from different time-periods but also depending on where you are in the world. And I guess there is nothing inherent about the ways in which we relate to rope, but that it is very well coloured by our own cultural contexts.

One interesting thing that both Esinem and Midori mentions is to move rope outside of its assumed categories of ‘kinky’ or ‘sex’, or what ever it might be. That is being done more and more, and just a recent report from Brussels Opera tells us about suspensions in Wagners Parsifal, staged by Romeo Castellucci.

What Toubaku showed to me, was the various ways in which rope feature in our lives, and how it can be both a tool and a tactic in order to create, to communicate and to love.


Tokyo Day 3

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. I also sadly did not have time to see all the performances nor write down as much as I’ve would have like to. Also, please, if you know the name of the various model’s that the rope-artists worked with, please post. They deserve to be named and get as much credit as the riggers themselves, as they truly shined throughout the event.

After not much sleep during the Saturday evening, we managed to get out of bed and out on the streets of Tokyo. I was a bit in a mode of soaking up as much as I could of Tokyo, since I could not stay for that long. Every hour counted.
By accident, we found a couple of sex shops, one which was completely  geared towards BDSM gear. Found some bits and pieces which I will treasure and I promise you, use:)

After then again returning back to the venue of the festival, the first artist we got to see was Yoi. And what a start it was. Entering the room, the light dimmed and just a very faint spotlight and candle lit the whole performance,giving it an air of us sitting in and watching this show taking place in moonlight. Both the model and the rigger used masks, the model wore a fox one and the colour scheme was deliberately white, red and some black.
Slow undressing followed, revealing a model with the face painted in the same fox-pattern as that on the mask, and together with the atmospheric soundscape that shifted between traditional Japanese music such as the shamisen, then Japanese children singing, and then to just the sound of rain, a different world opened up, a world that Yoi and her fox invited us to see. A fox which was about to be caught in carefully placed, beautifully crafted rope. The focus here was not speed or flashy, instant rope, but instead slow, deliberate tying, in which the fox followed, albeit with that slight hesitation and curiosity and in the same time, with delicious submission. There was so many things in this performance that has made me continue to think about it constantly since returning.
Tie ties themselves flowed, starting off with a TK. She was then suspended face down, very low and very close to the floor, which felt really perfect for this kind of fox. The feral creature which was the model moved incredibly gracefully, responding and communicating through her whole body. It was one of those performances that you did not want it to end.

After the  performance of Yoi’s there was a  talkshow with question time, and for the sake of easier reading you can find that post here.

After the Q&A it was time for Kinoko‘s second show, the neo-kinbaku. We made our way downstairs to find a spot, and it was filling up quickly. When the music started there was a creature entering the stage, dressed in a shiny zentai-suit. The creature moved slowly over the floor, with supple, feline movements, smooth but cautious. The music was fastpaced, light dimmed.
Kinoko entered the stage, grabbed the creature, pushing her fast over his knee, backwards, holding his hands around her neck. This was the start of a very visual performance, with a pumping electronic music.
He starts to tie her, with a fluorescent green rope. The tying itself is smooth, slick and fast. Because of the colour of the rope and the way he moves it around the model, it almost looks like he is using strands of flowing oil instead of rope to tie the zentai-creature. Every touch is precise, every movement controlled but extending through to the audience, moving with the music, but only in a very subtle way.

He ties her into a 3 rope TK and a hip harness, first moving her into a upright suspension. When he starts spinning her and leaving the stage, a laser and lightshow comes on, creating incredible visuals. Throughout the show, this is what happens when he has done a transition. Kinoko moves on to tie a gyaku-ebi, to a fully inverted sakasa, with only the ankles supporting the model. He then shifts the support into the hipharness, bringing down the legs, futomomo style. Between every one of these transitions, another lightshow comes on, and it creates a very futuristic feel. The last transitions is when he flips the model over, so she hangs from the hipharness, like a D lying on its back. With the rope, he then ties it around the legs and face of the model. This last shape, he pulls her higher than the others, staging a powerful crescendo. As she is in this position he starts to throw heaps of fluorescent rope on her, furthering the entanglement with the rope, that which connects them and their audience, then and there.

Shigonawa Bingo is a performer who also a part of the Ichinawa-Kai. Him and his very muscular self started the performance by halfdressed,  lying down to rest, only dressed in the the traditional loin-cloth fundoshi, After a couple of moments, a woman walks out on stage, sees him resting, strokes his cheek, drapes her juban over him and stroke his face yet again.  Bingo moves away, turns over and tries to go back to sleep.  As this is unsuccessful, he sits up,  looking at her and then put on the juban. These few minutes before the tying started really set another special tone for a performance. The props used, how they related to each other, etc., all made it feel like a scene between a husband and wife, or at least between two loved ones who knew each other very well.

There was a special caring touch in the way that he rested her hands upon his knee when tying her wrists, the way in which he used his whole body to move her, with or with out the rope. The ties he used varied slightly form the  regular TK that could be seen during the weekend. As I returned from Tokyo, I tried to tie it from memory and found it was both easy, steady and very good support, and according to the bunny, very comfortable.  The chest harness made it possible for  the hands and the arms of the model can be tied separately. There was a lot of small details that caught your eye in this performance; from how the tenugui, which is usually used as a blindfold, gag or tool to inflict pain (when it is wet, it hurts!), but here it is first introduced as a washcloth covered in water, which he squeezes over her body. A small move, but with a big response, it made her whole body tremble and the skin react immediately.  In one of the final moments, a hand came out from the side of the screen, pushed the button on a bottle, and provided the couple with snow, trickling down over them… Different and touching indeed, but the hand coming out from no where made both me and my friend giggle, as random as it was.

The next performance I managed to catch (oh, I assure you that I succeeded in missing a lot of shows, running between the different floors all the time) was that of Esinem‘s. This was a man who said that he felt like he was going to bring coal to Newcastle by going to Japan to do a show.
This show first of all, felt ‘whole’. There was a fluidity and ease to it, in terms of how it moved on stage, in the interaction between him and the model Yuki as well as how it really drew the audience in.  With music from Requiem for a dream, V for Vendetta and The Matrix, there was again a quite specific soundscape. Rather than drawing on the exact beat of ever track, he moved within the pace and mood it set.

The show started with him leading Yuki in, who had a rope around her neck, much like a collar and a lead. All of this was removed with a slight tug on the rope, revealing the kind of ‘dragon rope’ or ‘disappearing’ rope. It was here that it became clear how important every movement was in this performance, when not even this little starting point was neglected. The tying it self, the show, started with a rope being untied. I don’t know about you, but for me it shows how the hole experience is of importance, that every rope matters, and untying is as powerful as the tying itself.  As they sat down on the floor, a long newaza-session followed, and it did not take a long time before they both were lost in a world they had created. Afterwards, Esinem himself said that he did not even hear all the music, as he was so lost in what he was doing. This performance was special, the newaza took the time it needed to take, where the pain and pleasure truly went hand in hand.   You could really see how they moved together, with Esinem as always, being very close to Yuki, both physically and mentally, her self surrendering the whole of her being into the ropes and the moment.
The crescendo came in a gyaku-ebi suspension, attaching lilies to theropes, flowers which he then whipped off with a snakewhip, raining over the stage and those in the audience sitting on the first row. Once again, a performance ended leaving me with a heavy beating heart.

Midori is someone whom I’ve heard so much about, but never have been able to see. I admire her writing, love the visual and emotional take she has on her way of relating to kink and so it felt like a great time during Toubaku to have the Midori-experience.
The stage was dark as we waited for the show to start. It was possible to see some kind of preparations being made, including someone hanging from the ceiling…

Mozart’s Piano Concerto’s No. 21 and  No.27 accompanied this performance, here is one of the two that you can listen to while reading:
Two men came out on the stage, dressed in only fundoshi’s and robes. They sat down for a sake picnic. As they are cheering, clinking their sake-cups and talking, they became more and more touchy. And then more and more, they got closer and closer, started fondling, started kissing each other. Now, these was two very hot men, fondling and kissing, on stage, right in front of the audience. Do you know, first of all, how uncommon this is on the fetish scene? Just think of it. How common is it not with a public display of female,sexualized bodies, preferably two or more? While the gay fetish-scene keep sticking to themselves, there is an assumption of how the female body should be presented. No men on club-flyers, hardly any men on stage, unless they are fully dressed and can act as a MC, presenter or something else. Anyhow, back to she show.
They kept on kissing, drinking, fondling, smiling, while in the other corner of the stage, a creature, dressed in a black zentai-suit was hanging up side down from a suspension-point, completely still.
The couple gets more and more drunk, continuously kissing and smiling, but then one of them, the more muscular one, needs to go off into the bushes for what I assume a piss. He leaved his partner, stumbling around and then all of a sudden, the creature grabs him, he was caught in its arms and then, also the creatures rope. By now, we have basically understood the creature is Midori herself. And Midori is actually starting to tie this man, WHILE hanging from the suspension point, upside down. The drunk man tried to resist, but his confusion enabled her to take control.
So, while hanging upside down, she tied him into a chest-harness, secured to the hard point, then a legtie, pulling one of this legs up. One leg in the air, another on the ground, a slight nod to the partial suspension you can see on the cover of her book.
Meanwhile, every now and then, as tying, still hanging from a rope, she traced tickling fingers over the muscular body of this man, who was stringed up with the face and his body fully exposed towards the audience. This was not just about her ability to tie upside down, this was about exposing flesh that so rarely gets exposed, so rarely gets admired and objectified through the hands of others.
Sure, it is easy to find the undressed man on a billboard, but they are in control, they are always in control and you can see it in the eyes of Beckham on the billboard. The giant sock in his boxers and the giant paycheck, together with the privilege of his position.
But this muscular man, tied up, while working as a model, and I assume getting payed for his time, he had surrendered that kind of agency, albeit temporarily, for the sake of him being tied up and exposed for our viewing pleasure. She manipulated and played with him, and he was enjoying it, an enjoyment that was shared by us who got to see it. The way in which he was tied emphasized  his broad shoulders, strong legs and expressive eyes. Yes, his eyes was tantalizing.
And her hands moved over his body, teasing, exploring, tickling.
This creature, while still being lighthearted had somewhat of an underlying threat, reminding me of a mythological creature, interrupting a sakè bacchanalia of some sorts. My reference frames comes obviously from the Western mythology, so say Loki, from the nordic mythology, who was fond of the mischief side of things.
The other man, slightly leaner and thinner in stature, started to wonder where his lover had gone. So, slightly stumbling through the forest, he trippes over the Midori-Loki creature. At this point, she had come down from the ropes and instead attacked him from behind, leaving him with a slightly dazed and confused expression. She moved freely over the floor as she was tying this guy, and he was tied up with the other man, tied to the leg that was still standing of this guy, making it look like he was leaning on him. She then brought out a bunch of roses, started to decorating the two of them with these, all over, including one which was made to protrude from the standing guy’s crotch. And this made me smile even more. It was done with so much love and humor and and warmth.
As a finale, she cut all the ropes that kept the standing guy standing, and as he fall to the ground, he literally fell next to his lover, making it look like he fell into an embrace. An embrace 0f rope and roses.
And this just. Hard to describe. Just this immensly positive feeling. This was not exploitation or an appropriation, this was not about ‘laughing at some ditzy men who are getting pissed and making out’.  This was about an honest and loving homoeroticism. As I later learned from Midori herself, the japanese work for rose- Barazoku- is an underground codeword for ‘gay’ or men fucking/loving men. And, apparently, there is another flower for the lesbians/dykes/women fucking/loving women- the lily or Yuri. Another inspiration cited by Midori, was the work of Yukio Mishima, a Japanese queer writer who’s work  I’m looking forward to explore when I can actually read fiction again without feeling bad about not doing work for uni.

After the ropes were cut, the whole house broke out in applauds, and it was impossible to wipe out the smile of my face. The next performance was by Osada Steve, and as a show it was completely different. Set to the soundtrack of Anthony and The Johnsons, he and his model created a very still space, although there was something with their interaction that made it impossible to look away, and still painful to watch.  I can’t recall much sadly, as I took no notes. I remember a sidesuspension, vulnerability and submission. Strong submission that echoed throughout the room, through the ropes, and towards him, as he tied her into a sidesuspension.

To fluctuate between these two extremes was very intense, and as the last performance of the weekend started, I found myself having a hard time to concentrate. Naka Akira came on stage, and I could hardly focus at all. But as I sometimes sat down, and then walked around a bit, with my eyes on the stage, it really became apparent how good of a finishing performance it was. I could really not process everything, but there was certainly very interesting elements of his performance. What caught me the most was the focus, a focus which was completely on the model who was being tied up. Her struggle. Her pain. Her exposed flesh and the stillness of suffering in rope. His tying was indeed very still, not in still as in unmoveable, but with a piercing focus. He reminded me of what a friend of mine told me when she spoke of martial arts.
She said that there is always a certain amount of a response to an action and she likened it to a stone being thrown into water. The stone cause a splash, dependent on how big the stone is and the amount of water, depth, etc. What happens after the splash are the rings on the water, smaller, growing bigger, and then finally ebbing out into stillness, leaving the surface of the water again looking untouched. This is probably the best way to try to relate to you the feeling of this show. A movement from within that can cause a tidal wave or flooding, or just a splash and rings on the water. Akira was working like this, very focused and specific, only doing exactly that which was needed, nothing superfluous, and just riding the waves of the reactions of the model. She was indeed on display, in which the positions, tough as they were, were held, him moving out from sight slightly, letting her dwell in the exposure of our gaze.

Shin later told me how Akira apparently had performed to music that he had used in his first performance ever, as well as keeping the tying very traditional. One small example of this was how he in his suspensions did not use carabiners.  I’m afraid the rest of these remarks slipped my mind…

As an end to the Sunday shows at Toubaku and to the Toubaku festival, it was indeed grand.

Although this is not the last post from the Tokyo adventures, it was the last post that covered the Toubaku festival. I would like to take the time to thank the whole crew who made it happen, including the initiator and creator Hajime Kinoko, as well as Mack and Reina whom I know worked so hard to promote and working on this event happen. I don’t know all the people who worked so hard backstage and in the door, and at the bar, etc. but you are all so awesome. Thank you, for the bottom of my heart, as you truly reminded me of the possibilities and endless horizons that rope pose as medium for anything you wish to express.

Domo arigato



Tokyo Day 2

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. I also sadly did not have time to see all the performances nor write down as much as I’ve would have like to. Also, please, if you know the name of the various model’s that the rope-artists worked with, please post. They deserve to be named and get as much credit as the riggers themselves, as they truly shined throughout the event.

This was the first day of the rope-festival Toubaku and as we made our way to the venue, we where both excited. The first performance we caught was that of Nawashi Murakawa‘s kinbaku lifedrawing session. It is like any other life-drawing, except for the model that is holding the poses, is tied up in various shapes, all of which are very aesthetic and translates beautifully onto paper or what ever medium one might prefer. At first, people seemed to prefer watching Murakawa at work and being hesitant on joining in on the actual drawing, but after a while, people started to pick up the coal and the drawing papers, creating beautiful shapes. My own creativity is quite limited to the written and spoken word, so I just enjoyed sitting down and taking it slow. If there is something that I really enjoy with Murakawa’s rope, it his his lines and serenity. The rope is very organic, and seems to fit perfectly both through his hands and with the model, in the same time as his tying style is almost meditative.
The next performance was that of the two Danish friends of mine, who did a powerful and interesting show, with very precise rope, and in which both the skill of Max’s rope and the extraordinary strength of Tina as a model could be showcased. When Tina’s second leg went up to complete the ebi zuri, the audience let out a collective *Gasp*. What also was very touching was to see how Osada Steve watched his disciples on stage, being very aware of every move they did. Both Max and Tina made something that I must imagine to be quite a difficult tie to look almost effortless.

As we then walked down the stairs to inspect the other stage, we walked straight into the performance of Aotsuki Nagare who together with his model created a very intense performance, with bombastic choirmusic with slightly religious undertones. As I was late, I missed a fair amount of the rope-work itself, the model was already tied up as we walked in, but it felt like landing in a victorian sadomasochistic dream, somewhat resembling to The Story of O. I think it was the raw singletail whipping together with Nagare’s victorian looking tailcoat that gave me that impression. As his model was still shaking from the whipping, Nagare than sat down to watch his model, tied into a hip and crotch-harness, standing in front of him, undulating her hips to the point of orgasm. While sitting down watching her, he was also occasionally pressing a boot against her body, against her crotch and cunt. Now, I’m a sucker for these scenarios in general. There is something about boots, feet and masturbation, as well as boots pressing against the body that just does it for me. But what I had a hard time believing, in all of this, was how much she was actually coming. I know that a performance require a certain level of fantasy, but is it so strange for me to become quite doubtful of a fullscale orgasm or two during a performance? This is not me being jealous (or perhaps, an evil man in tailcoat that is pressing his boot against me…well, anyhow), but somewhat of a sceptic. I don’t doubt the honesty of the performance, just the way in which it felt like the female body in general was somewhat simplified. Then again, I’ve always been doubtful when it comes to the ‘control’ over the female orgasm.
But what I did enjoy was the distinct Master/slave dynamic between the two, strong and vivid and in which suffering, sexuality and submission became the central themes of the performance all in all. While there was many shows with clear sadomasochistic elements, few had such a strong sense of M/s as this.
Towards the end, she stood on her knees, offering her hands towards Nagare, who slowly dropped the ropes all over body. As he then carried her out from the stage, I could feel a sense of release and devotion.

The next performace was very different. Mark from Dv8 and Lani from Australia probably did the most ‘Western’ performance during the weekend, in terms of theme, focus and movement. It was a highspeed performance, explosive and modern . The rigger was very precise, working in perfect conjunction with the beats of the music. As a shownumber, it really showed the abilities of another incredibly powerful model, who worked up into a cresecendo and then entered a very dramatic sviwel-sequence of movements.

Another performance that I thoroughly enjoyed so much was that of Umitsuki Kurage. I can’t really pin this performance down very easily. I remember a white juban very clearly, and a very powerful, intimate experience, with a lot of sensitivity and heart.  Kugare is a member of Ichinawa-Kai, a rope-collective managed and sponsored by Kinoko himself, and it was many of the members of this collective who during the weekend stood out from the crowd in their styles and approaches to rope.

Following Kugare, it was time for Hajime Kinoko himself, for his first performance of the weekend. His traditional performances are different from the neo-kinbaku, and it was indeed a show that took both him and the model very far. As they entered the stage both of them wore traditional Japanese clothing and sat down on the floor. The way in which Kinoko starts his sessions is a very distinct one for him, one which both of them sit facing the audience, him sitting behind his model. He first place his right hand on the neck of the model, just holding it there, then moving both of his hands to the shoulders of the model. As he does this, you can  see how the  focus of both him and the one that he ties become condensed toward right here and now. His breathing slows down, so does hers, and her she closes her eyes, lowering her head, and that focus is what you can continue to see throughout any session that Kinoko does. It is such a clear signal that it draws you in as an observer, even if you are not tied yourself.  While this is not a film for the session at Toubaku, it is one which shows his style of tying, and the presence he brings to the way in which he ties.
In this specific performance, there was a focus on the dishevelment of  the model, gradually exposing her by slowly sliding clothes of her, bit by bit, forcing the kimono apart, and invoking a sense of shame in the way she was positioned and moved by him and the ropes that he used.
This concept of working with rope and shame, Suuchinawa, is one which stands very central to Japanese rope practice, and one which was seen in many different configurations during the weekend. I find the concept of shame in general being very interesting, especially from a sociological point of view.  In what situations are we ashamed? How is shame invoked in general in our different societies, and in specific, the different type of kink-communities that we inhabit? There is no point in trying to essentialize these concepts, even if that might be tempting, as they are a part of a ever so changing social world, and one which indeed can be culturally specific but certainly not static in its expressions or the way that shame is invoked. But this is probably a good topic for a whole blog-post on its own, so I will return to the performance of Kinoko-san. As the performance moved on, the rope turned into a more of a tool of not only shame and sensuality, but also a more torturous kind of rope and interaction. He moved the wax-candles over her body, up towards her face, and the trace the candle left looked like black tar over naked skin.  As she was partially suspended from a croth-tie, Kinoko pushed and pressed his model towards the point of tension not allowing the possibility to escape the pain in any way.

The last show at the festival on Saturday which I managed to catch, was the final minutes of Kazami Ranki. The only thing I thought I knew about him was how though he could be both as a rigger and a sadist, but to my surprise, there was not a lot of what I had expected of seme-nawa, torturous rope, going on. There was indeed rope which was truly demanding for the model, but what was so very special about this performance was the incredibly strong connection between them, it literally radiated out in the audience. His presence on stage was matched by that of his model, who again, was clearly such a strong woman. At one point, I could not stop staring at her legs, as the muscles that relaxed and tensed as she was moved in the ropes were so clearly defined. But the most intense moment of all came when Ranki untied her, and as they sat on the floor, something extraordinary happened. When the last strand of rope was about to taken off her chest, she leaned into his arms, and as they cuddled she started crying. It was not long before the last rope had been removed, and at that point, Ranki himself was crying as well. I had never seen anything like it, nor expected to do so. It was a moment where e the audience, including yours truly, was so affected by the feeling of unison and devotion between the two on stage, that they themselves broke out in tears. It was so amazing seeing a rigger and his model being so close to each other through their experience as well as letting us, the audience in on such an amazing show of vulnerability. One might forget from time to time, that even though riggers are the ones who are in control, they are too often so very vulnerable. In order to connect with someone, you really have to open up to not only see them as for they are but also letting those who are tied into one’s own heart. When that happen, magic such as the magic we got to witness in the case of Ranki and his model is indeed created. It was so touching and truly an honor to be allowed to witness this at Toubaku 2011.

To be continued…

Tokyo- Day I

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.

The Vivid Dreams

I dreamt so vivid dreams last night. They woke me up several times, and the immediate feeling was that I was lost, so lost, and so in need of what ever it was that I dreamt. Because I loose them you see, the dreams, can only trace them back to the fragments and shells, filled with emotion but no clear narratives.

I returned from Japan on Tuesday evening. Jet-lag has been kicking my ass and I’ve felt out of place, not knowing how to land really, because it was a very special couple of days.  I’m in deep need of some debriefing and I guess this is the place for it.
This first post is going to be about a private experience during Sunday night at The Sleeping Beauty, a members club in Tokyo, run by the same man who organized Toubaku, Hajime Kinoko. I guess I’m writing about this experience first, because I need to get it out of my system.
First of all, Sleeping Beauty rocks. Friendly, warm, relaxed, a great feeling, and it was very easy to socialize a whole night, taking the first tube home.

After filling in a membership form, you enter and immediately take off your shoes off and lock them away. A very nice feeling actually, to be barefoot in a club. After that you can change your clothes in the completely kitted out dressing room, that also have showers where you can freshen up. They even have hairpins, soap, hairspray, etc, that you can borrow. Basically, it rocks.
There is three floors, basement with a dancefloor and a stage, plus seating area, the ground floor with changing rooms, a smaller room where it is allowed to use a cellphone. The first floor has the rooms for exhibitionism and voyeurism, so to say.  You can fuck or watch people fucking and there was none of that sleazy feeling at all. And no experience of any unwelcome attention what so ever, no groping, no harassment of any kind.  The first floor also has a big space for rope-related activities and socializing. It is also worth noting that all the drinks are included.

In the beginning of the evening the place was packed, but as the hours flew by, the crowd evened out somwhat. It felt very good being able to walk around without shoes, in relaxed clothing and still being in a sexpositive, ‘kinky’ (what ever that means!) environment. I was not really planning on anything during the evening, although there was that ever present ache, longing to experience rope. Just walking around, socializing, making friends, expressing admiration towards some of those I had seen on stage at the festival, it was quite enough. I also saw the fun-filled show of Esinem, who sparred against his model with a singletail and she sparred against him with a flogger. It turned into something really fast, hilarious, and utterly awesome. I can understand that people don’t want BDSM to be presented as a farce , but also think that it is important to live with a sense of humor, to be able to laugh with each other.  Joy is one of those things that guide me in my ‘lifestyle’ and oh how much joy Esinem and Inessa gave the audience!

People played with rope all evening, everywhere. It is a special feeling when it is like that, like anything can happen. The standard was incredibly high, and there was a willingness to experiment as well, to share and to talk rope.  Private newaza, long, public sessions, demanding suspensions. One of my favorite moments was when a girl dressed in cargo-trousers and t-shirt kept on trying different techniques for a one-leg suspension, so strong and so determined.
Someone who was very interesting to speak to was a Taiwanese rigger called Shin. Sadly, I missed his show during the festival, but hearing him speak of his rope-practice during a talk-show with other riggers he said a lot of things that really resonated with me (that is for another blog-post though) and we had spoken a bit later that evening and then continued doing that at Sleeping Beauty.
At some point I asked if he would be interested in doing some rope, cause seeing all the strands of jute flying around everywhere really made the longing so very strong. Furthermore, through our conversations, he really stood out as someone who I could trust.
Not expecting anything, a bit later he asked if I would care to practice some shibari with him. I gladly said yes, even if there was a bit of a hickup moment when understanding he meant on the small stage. We spoke a bit, and as always, I told about the slightly annoying fact that my body is not always that understanding of what I want to do. Some muscles in my upper-body,mainly the arms, does not work as they should, so a lot of stretching takes place, but despite this, a simple TK can sometimes be impossible. After a bit of faffing back and forth, I decided to shut up, and do that which I felt like I could; trust his judgement.
Sitting half-naked on that stage together with him, I know that is what the fragments of my dreams has consisted of last night.
Fever Ray sings ‘We are capsules of energy’ , and that was how it felt being tied by Shin that evening.

Relaxing in to the TK, feeling strand after strand working itself around the skin, creating tensions and frictions, a tug here, a movement there. And the mouth of mine started suddenly smiling, and all I wanted to give him was all the possibilities I could  possibly give him. I stopped praying to myself that my body would not let my down, cause he made sure I knew it wasn’t going to.
The yoko suri  is a suspension which has posed problems for me before. Either, my arms has cramped, or I’ve felt faint and dizzy, or  it just has not worked out. Shadow did one which was modified for me during a workshop in Berlin before Xmas (something I still need to write about!), but I kind of had retreated to the notion I would hardly be able to do it at all.  And sure, there was a a second or two of hesitation, not wanting to screw anything up, when Shin started to pull the ropes. The moments when you loose yourself into the inbalance, just seconds before going up, and then realizing “He made it possible” and not feeling any pain, any dizziness, just pure joy and adrenaline and life. Shin continued tying, and I continued smiling.  How strong was he to make this body, the one that I struggle with, to work?  How strong is it possible to make another person?

As I came down again, we sat on the floor, he started to untie and I know I asked him to not make it all stop to early, begged for it to last one more minute. He responded in his mother tongue when I started speaking Swedish. The world was perfectly still, right there and then.

And I guess, that was what I dreamt last night, the fragments of that experience.  A world standing still, so perfectly still, so perfectly strong.