Japanese bondage (kinbaku/shibari) is said to differ from Western bondage in that the bottom is almost always immobilized or restrained to gain pleasure from being under the pressure and strain of the ropes, often squeezing the breasts or genitals, while the Western practice of bondage often focuses more on the immobilization, or may be applied strictly for decorative purposes.
The aesthetics of the bound person’s position are also important: in particular, Japanese bondage is distinguished by its use of specific katas (forms) and aesthetic rules. Sometimes, asymmetric and often intentionally uncomfortable positions, often giving choice of two ‘evils’ (two in different ways uncomfortable positions to chose between by moving in the ropes), are employed to heighten the psychological impact of the bondage. In particular, Japanese bondage is very much about the way the rope is applied and the pleasure is more in the journey than the destination. In this way the rope becomes an extension of the tiers hands and is used to communicate. Western styles are usually more symmetrical and may sometimes only marginally restrict the bottom’s ability to move.
Japanese bondage techniques use natural vegetable fiber rope (hemp, jute, or linen) exclusively. The natural fibers easily lock to each other which means the bondage can be held together by the friction of twists and turns or very simple knots. Traditionally, only multiple 7-8 meter lengths are used.
Western styles may use traditional natural fiber (though often dyed for aesthetic color variation) or synthetic fiber ropes, which have become integrated over the years. Cotton was used early on, then nylon became popular in the 1980s or 1990s, followed by multi-filament polypropylene (MFP) ropes. The variety offers a choice of different textures and skin sensations, though knot choices become more complex because of the slippery nature of synthetic ropes. Western full-body bondage tends to use a variety of lengths and often very complex decorative knots.
Kinbaku/shibari, with its roots firmly in Japan, has gained popularity across the world. Kinbaku implies “kokoro”; heart, spirit, mind and cannot be reached by skills of ropes/knots alone.
According to several sources, bondage as a sexual activity first came to notice in Japan in the late Edo period. Generally recognized as “father of Kinbaku” is Seiu Ito, who started studying and researching Hojojutsu in 1908 and turned it into an art form. Kinbaku became widely popular in Japan in the 1950s through magazines such as Kitan Club, which published the first naked bondage photographs. In the 1960s, Eikechi Osada brought performance bondage to the public eye.
In recent years, shibari has become popular in the Western BDSM scene in its own right and has also profoundly influenced bondage, combining to produce many ‘fusion’ styles.