日本語版はこちらThe History of Bondage in Japanese Art
Kinbaku (erotic bondage) originated from the martial study of hojōjutsu : restraining prisoners with cord or rope. During the Edo period (1615–1868), hojōjutsu was practiced by soldiers throughout Japan.
The inclusion of a bound character added visual impact and dramatic tension to Kabuki performances, and many depictions of Kabuki scenes in ukiyo-e woodblock prints include references to hojōjutsu. Indisputably the best known image of this kind is the grotesque Lonely House on Adachi Moor (Adachigahara hitotsuya no zu, 1885) by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892), in which a pregnant woman is shown restrained and suspended upside-down from the rafters of a cabin.
The artist typically credited as the first to explore the erotic aspects of hojōjutsu and to promote kinbaku as an artform was the painter Itō Seiu (1882–1961). Inspired by the work of Yoshitoshi, Seiu produced similarly disconcerting paintings of women in states of physical distress. As studies for those works, Seiu bound and photographed his models. These photographs have received critical praise for formalist aspects such as evocative lighting as well as for their overall sense of visual drama.
The topic of BDSM (bondage, domination, and sadomasochism) received international mainstream attention for the first time between 1952 and 1957, when Irving Klaw (1910–1966) produced a series of photographs depicting the model Bettie Page (1923–2008) in various forms of restraint. In January 1955, Page was featured as Playmate of the Month in Playboy magazine. Since then, artists such as Araki Nobuyoshi (born 1940) have emulated Klaw, and bondage has gained appreciation as both a form of underground performance art and as a subject of erotic photography.
As evident in this exhibition, depictions of bondage have become quite common within the field of contemporary Japanese erotic art, and though such imagery has sometimes provoked strong responses from international critics, the popularity of such artwork in Japan cannot be easily overlooked. For a Japanese woman’s perspective on bondage, please see the works of Tsubaki Anna (b. 1970), on display nearby.
Left: Itō Seiu (1882–1961)
Published in Yomikiri Romance magazine, January 1953.