Several excellent web sites offer different takes on the traditions, skills, myths and eroticism of what has become known as Japanese-style rope bondage.


My early notes on this topic have been around on the internet for several years.
Here, they're reproduced but with some recent re-thinking.

(For useful related web sites and photo credits, see the end of this page)

To simplify matters in this article, I've chosen to call the centuries-old Japanese traditions of rope used for quick capture and restraint 'Hojo-jutsu'. That's only an approximation of what it sounds like when somebody from Japan says it - if they ever do. Or they might read the same word symbols as 'Shibari'. More of that anon - but I propose to stick to Hojo-jutsu here.

Jim Stewart

In any S&M literature this topic should be indexed under 'S' for so-called or 'P' for pseudo.

Reliable information about the authenic origins is difficult to separate from popular mythology. In modern Japan the original function of Hojo-jutsu is now totally obsolete, and also probably illegal in terms of Human Rights. It was a ruthless Martial Art, the object of which was to capture, torture or punish by means of rope.

BUT, on the other hand, the erotic appeal of certain elaborate roping practices associated with this traditional skill/art struck a powerful chord in mid-20th century S&M communities.
The visual, tactile appeal of elaborate physically stressful skillful roping can produce a lot of very different power-exchange 'scenes'.

Intricate decorative Japanese-style body roping may be dismissed as Macramé by those who take their pleasure more from what happens after somebody is restrained. But, for lovers of suspenseful and protracted physical restraint game-playing, the process and resulting physical predicament can be the main focus of the event.

This is a neglected area - physical restraint as a pleasurable pastime.



The few available authentic Hojo-jutsu illustrations have inspired a lot of creative imagination, perhaps because the ancient drawings offer very little practical information.

So, improvisation on a stylistic theme has spawned a sub-category in bondage game-playing.

Make individual characters expandable?

Complicated rope harnesses can be
fun or agony to wear depending on the circumstances.

If well roped under tight leather, the feel for both the wearer and roaming fingers of a stranger can create their own thrill.


Elaborate roping over leather or other coverings is another stimulating visual statement and physical experience.


Three approaches to HOJO-JUTSU/SHIBARI

The ancient skill/art ( = jutsu) of taking control of a person with rope (= ho-jo) was something the exponents took pride in in different ways a few centuries ago.
Adapted to modern use, at least three rewarding alternatives spring to mind:

1) Against resistance, fighting someone into roping which is both efficient and aesthetically satisfying demands a high level of skill and practice - a fun possibility to explore for well-matched competitive game-players.

2) To create a deliberately stressful restraint predicament using roping, can demonstrate willing submission and power put to good use. In Hojo-jutsu various forms of wrapping and knotting were sometimes designed to exert growing discomfort. Such techniques have been a means of punishment or extracting information in many cultures for centuries. So, in modern 'bondage-for-pleasure' terms, this is a field for experimentation between willing participants.

3) A more calmly 'ritualised' process can provide an infinitely satisfying experience for both done-to and the do-er. Protracted sensual stimulation (visual and tactile, perhaps plus perfume and music) as the wrapping and shifting of position progresses, can be rewarding in itself. Then the end-result offers various levels of shared enjoyment for both the powerful and the powerless in the experience. Inspiring possibilities for the creatively inclined.



HISTORICAL ACCURACY need not be considered here.
In modern Japan, erotic drawings based on 'tradition' seem to be more SM oriented than culturally accurate.

Potentially painful body positions seen in modern interpretations (for example rope suspension or trussed with one leg roped bent and the other attached to some high anchor-point) are probably based on known historical evidence, but this is hard to track down. However, they can be hot to look at, experiment with and experience.

In other drawings from current Japanese sources, temporary piercing and blood figure quite often. Tattoos also feature prominently in homo-erotic interpretations.
In Japanese culture, tattoos signify connections with the criminal underworld. So, such pictures are perhaps based on an authentic element, because Hojo-jutsu was originally a serious crime-and-punishment Martial Art (art=skill).

Western tourists visiting modern Japan, whether looking for authentic historic information or a slice of modern BDSM life, are often frustrated. Today some Japanese bars do specialize in erotic extensions of the Hojo-jutsu rope-tie traditions, but the premises are always small and 'Westerners' usually are not welcome.
There certainly is a current Japanese 'Scene', but precisely what goes on and how authentic it is, is hard to find out.

Several very useful Web Sites offer more information on this topic.
See direct links at the end of this page.




In the European & USA bondage world, those who can attune to an 'oriental' mind-set can, when it comes to the esthetics and 'jutsu' (art / skill) of a Scene, generate a very personal kind of enjoyment for themselves and their lucky play-partner.
In particular, precision, symmetry, calm tactile & sensual manipulation of mind and body becomes formalised. The gradual process of taking or accepting control and then developing a predicament which occupies a whole range of senses, can be a rewarding experience for all involved (sometimes including spectators).

Should this be categorized as S&M? Physical restraint is certainly a major factor in Japanese-style rope play. In Western interpretations, the action can spread to include use of other materials. In addition to gleaming white, black, coloured or hairy hemp rope, other textures and visual elements can enhance the aesthetic effect of calmly applied elaborate wrapping and knotting. Narrow oiled leather strips (thongs), coloured plastic-covered electrical cable, black and yellow police crime-scene tape feature in many photos which appear on the Internet. Or, alternatively, linen, silk or latex bands when wrapped systematically and calmly, can take over the mind as well as the body - offering an esthetic almost hypnotic experience.

Imaginative scene-extensions such as massage or teasing, abrasions, temporary piercings, tickling or cum-control are then an 'intensification' of the elaborate physical restraint. To confirm the state of powerlessness, other more conventional factors such as hot wax or clothes-pins can add drama.
But, in Oriental-style roping situations, the process of binding is the focus rather than it being a preparation for what comes next.

That the 'Bondage Mind-set' is different from what is too often lumped together as S'n'M'n'Bondage, is something I repeat again and again. Of course interests overlap, but physical restraint as a pleasurable pastime is too often side-tracked by the mistaken idea that pain, abuse or 'domination' must be part of every scene. More traditional Western S&M or Master/Slave game-playing can include many elements described above, but the mind-set of what I think of as Oriental-style physical restraint, can be looked at as an end in itself, if that's where your preferences lie.

What's in a name? Can any game which focuses on giving pleasure through the process of creating and sustaining physical restraint predicaments be called Sado-masochism? To people who enjoy being physically restrained, the means/ manner/materials/ambience contribute to specifically different trips. Being allowed to savor the sensual progression of the experience without being distracted by ill-judged 'extras', requires sensitive reading of the situation.

expand photo

Leaving the tied person in isolation to savour the predicament doesn't mean such scenes are not shared. The Doer and the Done-to build a rapport; the roper and the roped are at all times physically and mentally linked; the netter and the netted can share the results in a variety of ways which engage all the senses. The visual and tactile are essential to Hojo-jutsu-style physical restraint, because the sound and smell and even taste of cotton rope or hemp or leather thongs can add a subtle extra dimension to a category of erotic game-playing which is perhaps too limitingly called "Japanese Rope Bondage".

Is there already another name for such games? How do people communicate their preference for slow, subtle, tactile, visually esthetic 'bondage'? There's a lot of it going on.

End of Jim Stewart's original 'notes' - March 2000

expand photo
Photo courtesy of
the '
ropetopsfbay' site
(see web address
below ** )
Photo courtesy of
Mistress Suzanne at
the 'Shibarilover' site

(see web address
below *)


The above notes were discussed during a long-weekend get-together for ‘LIVING IN LEATHER’ in Seattle (July 2000), where several experienced practitioners demonstrated their various different 'takes' on Oriental-style roping techniques.

At this event, people had opportunity to experiment and observe.
Subsequently I published another short article titled ...

(If you follow this link used the 'back' button to return here)


INFORMATION ON WEB SITES can be carefully informative or seriously erotic.
In most cases men are applying elaborate roping to women. But several very imaginative and practical women are now demonstrating their skills on males.
Whoever holds the balance of power, any such sessions can offer a lot of stimulation for both the do-er and the done-to. Site visitors can gain information, inspiration and stimulation
(use the 'back' button to return after visiting these sites)

expand photo
Art photos by Neil Shadow
from the 'Shibarilover' site*
(see web address right)

expand photo

http://members.aol.com/squaddiejh/Hojojutsu.htm offers an excellent introduction to the topic. Mainly male oriented, there are dozens of links to related topics plus excellent links to authentic Japanese sites such as ...
http://www.powerotics.com/shibari/ is a heterosexual site which offers information, commercial opportunities plus photos of elaborate ties on women.
**http://www.worldleathermen.com/ropetopsfbay is a great contact address for photographer 'Loquillo' and an expert roper in the San Francisco Bay area.
*http://www.shibarilover.com/nawashi.htm carries some of the best 'art' roping photos I have ever seen, and I'd like to see more of photographer Neil Shadow excellent work. The above link takes you to part of the imaginative roper 'Mistress Suzanne' broader fetish site which is www.SxySadist.com and well worth exploring.

Also check out a Personal roping buddy page

Seriously skillful traditional roping skills demonstrated

expand photo

Photo courtesy of
the '
ropetopsfbay' site**
(see web address left


Find photo credit
Seriously skillful traditional roping. Photo courtesy of

Back to ...



Return to