Semantics of Shibari vs Kinbaku

Creator: Kinoko Hajime

So what does the word Shibari mean?
The dictionary definition is “the act of tying” but as with so many words in Japanese, the meaning depends upon the context in which could be used to refer to tying such things as parcels, objects, etc To take the word out of context removes much of its meaning. In a discussion on bondage – Shibari is a word for ‘bondage tying’.

What is Shibari vs Kinbaku?
As in the rest of the world, the Japanese have differing opinions on which is the best term to use for not only Shibari or Kinbaku but other terms that may apply to the art of bondage tying.

So we may have a situation where shibari means to tie, and kinbaku is a rather recent word meaning “to tie tightly so that there is no movement after the tie”.

Another opinion is that ‘Shibari’ is bondage tying and that Kinbaku is ‘Shibari’ plus emotional connection – to “tie deeply”.

Practitioners seem to use the words interchangeably and you’d be invited to learn Shibari at Kinbaku workshops. Recognized Japanese practitioners prefer one or the other to some extent, this does not however mean that one is valid and the other is not. They are all valid.  These are not contradictions, only preferences of expression.

Most Japanese rope artists instinctively gravitate towards one or the other in their conversations depending upon the circumstances.

For instance, an artist explicitly describes his rope as “Shibari not Kinbaku” while he qualifies some other rope artists as “doing Kinbaku, not Shibari”. He often says that he wishes to tie to the point where the model can move a little bit in the tie, thinking she can untie herself, when – in fact, she cannot.

There are situations where all Japanese agree: is that in the sentence “let’s do Japanese rope together”, it is always Shibarimashou (let’s shibari) and not “kinbaku o shimashou” (let’s kinbaku).

~Bound to you~

~tangible and intangible~

You have me tied up in….knots

dievca was fascinated by this Gucci Rope Knot Bracelet – Gold on Sterling Silver:

Which brought on a fun internet viewing session:

Georg Jensen Loveknot Cuff Sterling Silver $295

Manon Knot Rings in 14K White or Yellow Gold

JC Penney 18K over Sterling Silver delicate knot bangles – three

J.W. Anderson F/W 2018 knot earrings

And dievca went with:

Sterling Silver Knot Cuff Bracelet – Housing Works

Why does she feel like knots are a Summer or beachy piece? Maybe because Master isn’t in to Shibari/Ropework and it seems like a “boating” thing. Hmmm~


Stephane Graff, Mermaid, UK, 2013

A comprehensive body of work, Graff’s Constriction series began in 1991. Much of the series was photographed over an intensive two-year period (1991-1992), after which the series was revisited in 2013.

In Constriction, we discover nude figures bound with ropes. Their bodies, partially concealed, are meticulously wrapped in a manner reminiscent of the ancient Egyptian mummy wrap technique. Captured in raking light, the bodies appear incomplete, resembling at times heavy stone sculptures.

The eroticism of a rope-tied nude figure has appealed to many artists in the past. Man Ray’s 1936 Venus Restaurée, a precursor to Graff’s work, binds a classical armless female nude with rope. However, Graff’s nude figures are too complex to be interpreted as mere sexual fantasies. Graff’s subject matter stems primarily from his fascination with the ritual of binding body parts found in various indigenous cultures.

Another source of inspiration for Graff is the escapologist and stunt performer Harry “Handcuff” Houdini, who would often volunteer to be bound and chained on stage before performing a miraculous escape. This theatrical element is alluded to in Graff’s studio set, which often incorporates a painted canvas backdrop reminiscent of a Victorian stage or sideshow backdrop.

Graff’s bound nude figures offer many potential interpretations, making the Constriction series a dynamic, dramatic, and timeless body of work. ~ Todd Merrill Gallery

Stephane Graff, Tower, UK 1991