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Interview: Saikatsu

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For the sake of accurate history, and because age is a fact of life we have to accept, it becomes imperative to record details from key individuals while we still can. One by one we are sadly losing these resources, and as global interest in rope bondage practices peaks, unbiased facts can be displaced by spurious claims of association, embellishment and misinterpretation.

With the sole agenda of seeking hard truth, this interview with Saikatsu–san, Akechi Denki’s assistant and friend for 24 years, was always going to be a key moment in our collective understanding. A friendly, fastidious man, widely respected in the Japanese scene, Saikatsu’s detailed notes and memories help to piece together solid reality over a period of 6 decades.

For this interview, most questions were set by myself, with additional spontaneous questioning from Ugo of SMpedia and Bingo Shigonawa of Bar UBU, Shinjuku. Ugo led the discussions, translations were made by Yuki Sakurai, and our model to witness Saikatsu’s Kinbaku in action was the lovely Airi–chan.

Naturally, Saikatsu is an alias. Born in the late 1940s in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, an incredibly beautiful and unspoiled city nestled between the Sea of Japan, the Hakusan National Park and the Japanese alps, he left for university in Tokyo during the mid 1960s. Then following two years employment in Nagoya, he returned again to work in Tokyo.

As we have commonly found, Saikatsu was not so different in his early exposure to and ardour for rope bondage. For him, the spark was the character of a princess, bound in a movie around 1960, and before TV was generally available.

Saikatsu san tying

In the mid–1960s as a university student in Tokyo, he would go to see many pink films that had been in production for a while. As Bingo noted, ‘Pink Film’ was Buzzword of The Year, 1963. Back then, the producers managed costs by shooting only the most sexually important scenes on expensive colour film, returning afterwards to monochrome. ‘Pink’ is a reference to naked flesh.

We discussed how pink film and theatre took place at the same locations. Pink films started to appear in 1962 as producers realised the enormous demand in Japan – part of a global sense of sexual liberation, and an industry was born. By 1964 so much money was being made that performers, writers and directors were generating more and more varied content to supply to an increasingly diverse market of tastes and foibles. This included sadomasochistic practices such as rope bondage. With demand, what was censored on celluloid could then be better transposed uninhibited to audiences on the small theatre stage.

Saikatsu: “When I was a student, I found Kitan Club by chance because my co–student friend left it openly on display in his apartment. I didn’t know the existence of such magazines before, but I think my friend had such a sexual preference. I began to realise that some people actually do such things. I was already interested in Shibari from movies, but it had only been my delusional dream. After I found such magazines, I started to buy them alternately with this friend in ordinary bookstores. The price was ¥350, about $1 at that time.”

It would appear that around 1967 the market had grown so large that adult actresses, longing for opportunities, could star in what was becoming serious cinematography with very good earnings. Traditionally classical theatre groups could extend their potential profit by additionally putting on adult shows at rejuvenated theatres. These had incorporated projection screens for film as theatrical audiences had dwindled, and so had the stages already available to quickly convert back for performing to this new market.

Dan Oniroku would be amongst many scenario writers in the pink media, and was the author of ‘Hana to hebi’ (Flower and snake, 1962) – a work of sadomasochistic fiction much like ‘Histoire d’O’ in France only 8 years earlier. The title probably alluding to female and male genitals.

By 1970 there were so many, now forgotten actresses, actors, writers, directors and producers involved in output from soft porn to creative SM practises, including Kinbaku, and making huge amounts of money. Among them were the likes of Naomi Tani, queen of the SM movie, often tied by Kinbakushi such as Takashi Tsujimura, Shigeru Kayama or Hiroshi Urato, the big rope bondage names of a generation before Sakurada, Osada and Akechi.

Saikatsu: “I would go to movies specifically with Kinbaku scenes. I saw the first movie of the ‘Hana to hebi’ series after it had been edited. The first showing had been raided by the authorities and Dan Oniroku had to delete some scenes. It was far from the original. They hid the nipples with rope. I was so disappointed. I saw the still photos and titles at the entrance of the movie theatre hoping it was like the original, but it, and the subsequent ‘Hana to hebi’ series films were not. This was before Kinbaku on TV shows like ‘11pm’.”

The live and cinematic pink market quickly collapsed with the advent of small magazine producers and then later, VHS. Chimuo Nureki, who coincidentally evolved into one of the most prolific SM Kinbaku video porn producers, begun as an amateur erotic story writer for Kitan Club.

Saikatsu: “Nureki had already posted images and written various things, but Akechi Denki’s mastery of rope bondage in the early days was mostly inspired by Kitan Club. Akechi had been practicing before this, tying his female cousin. Myself, I mainly just read Kitan Club, and browsed through Uramado. Kitan Club had black & white gravure photos, along with writings and stories. They paid manuscript fees, so enthusiasts would submit their writings, and that’s why the magazine lasted until 1975, although there were often several months of publication suspension. But I never posted.”

Asked how it was to find somebody to tie back in those days, Saikatsu explained how he was only consuming. Unless you had a willing partner, could find an expensive model, or were involved in the pink industry, very few people had the opportunity to actually practice rope bondage, as it was still considered an extremely deviant practice. He didn’t begin tying until much later, after he started to help Akechi. He felt he was deluded for a long time, and that only special people could tie girls. Even after he started to help Akechi, he never thought he would end up holding the rope.

Saikatsu was asked if, during his student days, he had any friends also turned on by Kinbaku. “Such a world was really underground at that time, and we couldn’t talk openly about it. I could only talk to that one friend because I knew he had such a preference. There wasn’t anybody doing shows at that time. There must have been quite a number of potential enthusiasts who could also not talk about it. That’s why Kitan Club began to be published in 1947, just after the war ended, and continued for such a long time. However, Kitan Club wasn’t an SM magazine at the beginning. It was just a general erotic magazine. Minomura Kou, Suma under his alias made it into a SM magazine, and sales then increased. I don’t think it would have lasted over 20 years without him. I enjoyed Tsujimura’s ‘Rope Hunt’, a story with photos, describing the scenario in narrative – how hard it was (in an SM sense), etc. I really liked it. The simple Shibari and the realism of the photo–stories of that era still excite me.”

After graduating from university and getting a job in Nagoya, Saikatsu had no friends or acquaintances with the same adult interests. However, so many SM magazines began to be published around 1972–3, many now with gravure pictures in colour.

Saikatsu: “I was getting older now, and a little embarrassed to still be buying this material. Whilst browsing a magazine in Nagoya to see if I wanted to buy it, the shop owner thought I was a minor. He told me not to read such magazines, and I felt a little bad. But still, I could buy them at bookstores. I was living in a company dormitory at that time. I could not buy all the magazines, so I bought SM Collector. There were small books called pocket version, and normal A4 size, before the era of the Bini–hon plastic pre–wrapped magazine cover. I threw all mine away when I relocated back to Tokyo.”

It wasn’t until the late 1970s that Saikatsu saw a live Kinbaku performance.

Saikatsu: “I saw Keiyu Tamai perform before I came across Akechi. I forgot where, but it wasn’t with Theatre Scandal. The model was Ami Ishikawa who later acted in the video ‘How to make SM 10 times the fun’ where she was tied up with Hishinawa under her coat, and then walked around the Shinjuku Subnade underground shopping arcade before making a round trip in a train without the coat. I really liked it because I like exhibitionism.

I went to an event in Roppongi, and there was Ami Ishikawa tied up on a small table as an art object for 20 or 30 minutes. Everyone was just looking. Then Tamai appeared and started talking to her. She was tied with Gote shibari, fully naked. Since she cannot get free, she asked for help. But everyone, including me, was too timid and just kept watching. So, she got up by herself, talked with Tamai, and then he whipped her.

Keiyu Tamai was from Osaka, having founded Theatre Scandal in 1976. Denjiro Sakurada was doing GSG in Tokyo. They did a skit together with some rope. It was classified as an underground play. Tamai produced Eikichi Osada, and Sakurada, who enjoyed SM play then became more indulged in rope. But I never saw any of this. I only saw the one event with Tamai. It was a very interesting period, and in my opinion the Kinbaku show business scene would not have matured without people like Keiyu Tamai and Denjiro Sakurada.

Tamai was also involved with SM–style strip events, but I didn’t see them. There wasn’t the advertising that there is today. It was difficult to find out where they were and what was going to be shown. I had just become an adult and had to work for a living, so after I went to Tamai’s event, I didn’t see anything until Akechi’s Phantom show.”

The modern Japanese Kinbaku show evolved from Seiu Ito’s play, to Kazuya Mukai’s live performances with his model Junko Aoki from around 1964, which would then influence Tamai and Osada, and Sakurada and Akechi. While Tamai significantly contributed to bringing rope play to a wider audience, he wasn’t a fan of SM, unlike Sakurada, even though they were both theater group organisers.

Saikatsu also recalled the era of the Bini–hon, when, as was also common in the west, erotic magazines started to be wrapped in plastic. This was partly to prevent potential buyers flicking through them without purchasing and damaging the pages, but also masking content that could be far tamer than depicted on the cover.

Saikatsu: “I still didn’t have the courage to tie my girlfriend. I saw some Bini–hon with rope bondage. I’m not sure if it was jute rope. I think the rope was a little bit thicker, and the tying was not so neat. Shima Shikou tied for and published many of these books. I did not subscribe to them like I did with Kitan Club. I focused more on magazines than on pink films. Initially, I bought a magazine called SM Collector quite continuously, because I could not afford many. If I remember correctly, I then saw pocket versions of SM Select, and then SM Fan and SM Mania.”

This was a very interesting time in Japan. As the underground shows started to appear, people who were hiding their sexually deviant preferences started ‘coming out’. This coincided with the new personal computer games becoming popular, and led to a proliferation of ‘black shops’ that would sell pirated copies of both computer games and uncensored porn videos under the counter, including SM practices such as rope bondage.

Saikatsu: “It was in 1979 that I went to see Akechi’s Phantom Show at Nakano Queen. It was advertised in Pia magazine. I was very nervous, but I wanted to see the real thing and feared I would regret not going. I’d heard of the name Akechi, and I’d seen a video with him in it where he wore a full–faced mask and played the masochist. But he wasn’t credited as Akechi Denki. Then I saw another video from the late 70s with one of his Kinbaku shows. I forgot the title of the video, but Akechi was wearing dark glasses and I thought he was a scary person. There I realised the name Akechi Denki. I did not recognize him in the earlier video as the masochist with the full–face mask, but he confirmed it after I started to help him. I don’t recall the name of the film company. He was exploring a dark, submissive side of his nature. Akechi san told me that the dominatrix was a beginner and he advised her a lot while he was being suspended.

Akechi rented one room of the 3rd floor at Nakano Queen, one of the oldest SM clubs in Japan, and if 20 or 30 people were able to enter, it was jam–packed. Sometimes it was really full, and there were times when only one person came to watch a show. The first time I went there were 15 or 16 people. Not so many. There was a 1–hour show where Akechi would do hot wax and sadomasochism, a short break, and then another 1–hour for his Shibari. He liked to do the second show because his rope was so neat, and he liked to show off his Semenawa and the Shibari ties he was creating. I was also excited about the second part because I prefer to see the Shibari to seeing sadism. Akechi was very sexually deviant. He liked to do enema shows in later years in Shibuya, but not at Nakano Queen.”

We discussed how perceptions outside Japan of the chronology of rope bondage are often confused, especially in respect to Hojōjutsu. In context, we can clearly see that various sadomasochistic/erotic practices evolve from penal or martial roots, e.g. the crux decussata on which Saint Andrew is said to have been martyred upon, the medieval torture chambers and papal inquisitions, etc. This link to equipment and techniques exists more on a subconscious level, and our sexual deviancy and enjoyment of BDSM utilizes these without the barbarism and inhumanity associated with their original function. They become our toys and our tools, for our own play and pleasure. Rope has always been depicted throughout Japanese history: it’s there, subliminal in the background. But the unraveling of how it was applied in function is very recent, and is still in discovery.

Saikatsu: “Akechi didn’t show Torinawa or Hojōjutsu in a show until very late in his career. He might have been enthused by the rediscovery of Torinawa techniques if he had lived longer, because he clearly said that he wanted to research it. However, he said that it would be difficult since there are so many different styles and traditions across Japan, so he first wanted to collect literature on the matter. He showed me some of the works he had. But Akechi did not write anything to record any of it.

Historical details about Hojōjutsu were appearing so late in Akechi’s life that he had no time for it. I think he did want to research it and organize styles of it in his mind. But he did not use Hojōjutsu actively when showing his Shibari. Audiences, including me, did not detect Hojōjutsu and Torinawa. Shibari that people do now is rope work that is easy to play in private or to show in performance. No one mentioned Hojōjutsu back then.”

It is clear to see how Hojōjutsu was an underlying theme for many rope bondage enthusiasts, including Akechi, because it exists within Japanese culture. But it wasn’t the focus of attention, much like other BDSM practices don’t directly reference medieval torture, etc. They were primarily excited by a princess being tied up in pictures by Ito Seiu, or depictions of Kinbaku in Kabuki theatre and Bunraku puppet shows, or from outside influences like John Willie’s Bizarre, Klaw, Page, etc. It was a long time afterwards that individuals established their own styles that they began to make the connection to Hojōjutsu. As Saikatsu said, most Kinbakushi become curious about Hojōjutsu at some point as they master Shibari. But the start of their Shibari is not Hojōjutsu. It’s a relatively new element.

Saikatsu: “Akechi did not start with Hojōjutsu, but he wanted to absorb it. I don’t know when Akechi started to be concerned about Hojōjutsu, but I heard him say ‘Since there are so many Torinawa styles (in Japan), I want to research them and detail their history’. But Akechi started as just a kinky guy with a love of anal play. He wasn’t even very good at rope when he first came into contact with Denjiro Sakurada.

Sakurada told me that Akechi started to help with the stage for GSG because his business was interior design work. Sakurada’s rope work was also not very tidy. It happened that Akechi had an opportunity to do it. Akechi had been playing with his female cousin since childhood, tying her with a little mischief. When he was actually asked by Sakurada to tie, I think his ability was not like we know it now, but he just liked doing it and wanted to do it more and more. He probably trained by himself, for example, tying up his own legs. Sakurada told me that Akechi was working very hard, trying to do different ties every time after his performances. So, it made his tying advance and he became good very quickly. By the time I saw Akechi, his Shibari was already perfected.

Akechi had joined Sakurada’s club in the early 1970s, so he had the opportunity to do rope while watching performances at GSG. Sakurada didn’t explain why, but 7 or 8 years later he decided to stop GSG, and so Akechi said that he wanted to do something. There was an event called SM Bomber by GSG at that time. Sakurada let Akechi bring members of GSG to a group he set up called ‘Studio Phantom’ in early 1980. It was the end of that year when I went to see a Phantom show.

Sakurada’s GSG members thus became the members of Studio Phantom. Akechi was also recruiting new members. He had a partner called Keiko Asano at that time, and she gave me a small, cheap handwritten flyer for recruiting members at Akechi’s show in Nakano Queen that anybody could go to. I brought a flyer back home and considered for a while, and finally made a phone call to the office to become a member myself. Then I was told that the representative (Akechi san) would interview me. It wasn’t in an office, but a room in which Keiko was living. After a while, Akechi rented a small room in Sasazuka, Shibuya and this became his formal office.

At first there were photo sessions which were called ‘Special Members Meetings’, and later, in 1982 we had events such as ‘SF meeting’ and ‘Denki’s meeting’. Initially, there were photo sessions at Nakano Queen, and after Akechi rented the room in Sasazuka, photo sessions were held there too. The office in Sasazuka lasted for ten years, and moved to Shimouma on the eastern fringes of Setagaya–ku close to Meguro in 1997.

I still remember that strict interview with Akechi–san on Christmas Eve – December 24th 1980. I was a maniac, a little hard sadist, just a kinky man. This was the first time I actually talked to him, and I was scared. He wore sunglasses and a kind of frock coat when he entered the room. He didn’t take off the glasses. He was very cool. I was asked for a brief background. However, he asked me to be a member so eagerly and I then felt he was not the scary man I knew from the video. So, I became a member and started to go. I don’t remember paying any admission fee. But I remember that a photo session was about ¥20,000 yen. It was rare not to pay an admission fee at that time. But I don’t think I paid it. I started to take photos because I was a special member.”

At this point it becomes important to explain a fundamental conduct in Japanese society, somewhat different to western habits. Japan is an honorific culture. This means that personal honour and integrity is shared, directly with one’s family, and by association to friends and colleagues. As repeatedly seen, when a model retires, she will remove all links to her Hentai (sexual perversion; kink and/or erotic past). The same is true for Kinbakushi/Nawashi, writers, producers, etc., except that they tend to go on until either incapacitation or death. Those who fall suddenly can expect their closest comrades or family to destroy record of their activities, to save the honour of those not involved by association with such practices.

Saikatsu: “I’m old now and don’t know when I will die, so I have to incinerate or discard my photos. When Akechi san died, I heard that Izumiya took all of his works and burnt them.

Since I was not a photographer, I was satisfied if there was adequate lighting and the model can be seen clearly through the viewfinder. But my favourite poses were still good, and there was fun beyond just watching. However, I didn’t really enjoy looking back at the photos I took. We could not bring such films to general photographic processing shops, so Akechi kept the films and had them printed for us. There were rental laboratories in Akihabara and Takadanobaba, Shinjuku at that time for making photo films, so I chose my favourite ones and asked Akechi to print them. One day when I went to Akechi’s place to take my film to him, I incidentally overheard that he needed someone to help him.

It was 1981. Until then, Akechi’s partner Keiko was helping him as a model and also as a receptionist, but she became busy studying and could not go to every show as she had until then. So, I said that I could be the receptionist. This was just the beginning.

Mostly, I was the only one who helped him. But there was a former member of Sakurada’s GSG who Akechi quite liked. He sometimes came and helped make the stage, but it was only me who went there every single time.

Shows were held in Nakano Queen twice a month, and photo sessions were held in Sasazuka once a month. Once in a while, Akechi asked me to come to his private play. Not so many people were invited. Me, and sometimes this other guy who occasionally helped us. We didn’t pay, and we only watched. Akechi didn’t do so many private plays, and preferred to keep them underground. Once I saw his eyes becoming muddy when he was using a whip. Then I realised that he is for real.”

As we continued the interview, Saikatsu continually referred to his notebook. And then we were gifted deeper, previously little–known insights into the character of Akechi Denki.

Saikatsu: “Sakurada mentions it in a feature article for SM Sniper after he died, and an actress called Kurokawa Mayumi interviewed Akechi when he became a member of GSG confirming that he could be very perverted; sukebe, enjoying taboos. But he didn’t show that side of himself to me, maybe because of his age and status as a professional Nawashi by then.

There wasn’t really any paperwork back in 1981. I was doing the reception at shows and photo sessions. I turned the background music on. Tapes were made by recording music picked up from somewhere. Akechi tape recorded his favourite stuff. He wasn’t so good at such things so the joins between tracks were not very smooth. He was using the same tape all the time. I still remember the last music, and Kanna is still using it now. I do not remember the title of the music, but it still makes me emotional.”

As an aside, I know that at least one track was ‘Epitaph’ by King Crimson, because I recognised it in Kanna’s Phantom Show 2 days after this interview.

Saikatsu: “Akechi said that the 10 years in Sasazuka were really the most interesting days, and I agree. Afterwards, he moved the office to Shimouma, and then to Shibuya. But the time in Sasazuka was really fulfilling and he really enjoyed his rope.

The first time I tied was in 1983 at a ‘SF meeting’ photo session at the office in Sasazuka where the models kept their panties on. One day Akechi asked me, ‘Do you wanna try?’. Even without experience I was shameless and I answered ‘Yes’. Before then I hadn’t really tied. I was taking videos of shows and photo sessions for an audience. Taking videos then was not as easy as it is now. Since they were recordings, I could see Akechi’s rope work from a good position. But I didn’t expect him to tell me to try it. I was only looking through a viewfinder. He just asked me and I never thought of doing it myself until then, and he didn’t teach me how to do it. I just learnt by his example. Akechi didn’t give me any advice when I tied. I would just tie and untie, that’s all. He didn’t even tell me if it was good or bad.

Nureki had an almost similar experience. According to his notes, Suma asked him to tie up a girl. Although it was his first time, he tied very spontaneously. He didn’t learn or study, but he tied very well. Maybe that’s just the way it is.

Even though it was my first experience, I didn’t do it continuously after that. Just sometimes. I would watch Akechi though the viewfinder of the video camera, but he never formally taught me. He was always saying to me that the ushirode (hands tied behind one’s back​) is really important, saying, ‘Start with the ushirode and end with the ushirode’. It was difficult to find girls to model at that time. So Akechi often went to bars and asked the hostess if she would like to be a model, although Akechi had a low alcohol tolerance. If she refused, then that’s it. He told me that the girls who become a rope bottom are really precious. However, now we can have such opportunities, because nowadays we have so many Kinbakushi.

Akechi also used professional models. There was a production company called Green Kikaku in the same building, so he sometimes asked them for models for shows and photo sessions. Sometimes, actresses from pink films or amateur mania girls contacted Akechi. He would talk a lot on the phone and promised to meet the girl at the ticket gate at Sasazuka Station. Most times they didn’t show up.”

By 1997 Akechi Denki had picked up such a reputation as the leading rope bondage exponent in Japan, and was bringing in enough from his Hentai activities, that he decided to turn fully professional.

Saikatsu: “After Akechi san went professional and we moved from Sasazuka to Shimouma, I didn’t have time to tie anymore. He quit from his interior design business and transferred all rights to his employees. He didn’t tell me the reason. I think he moved to Shimouma with great enthusiasm to only work with rope from then on. However, thinking back, it may have been a mistake, because the rope scene was not very mature at the time. Akechi thought he could also rent the room as a studio, but the room was not user–friendly for this. In addition, it was just behind a primary school and quite some way from the station, so he couldn’t get as many people to come as he expected. The rent was high because it was a house, so he stayed in Shimouma for only two years, and the membership decreased in that time.

At the same time the name ‘Akechi Denki’ was becoming quite popular. His main source of income was from his shows. He also appeared in magazines and videos, but didn’t earn so much from them. In Sasazuka he had to pay for models and the studio fee even if there was no audience. He also paid for everybody’s meals after a show. He always brought enough money for this. I heard that he had quite good customers, so I think he didn’t care too much about the costs.

But he said himself that, ‘I thought a few more people would come’ (to Shimouma). Maybe the suitability of the location was not very good, since it was just behind the primary school. I think he received a complaint. He had to pay rent increases, so he moved to Shibuya 2 years later. It was probably Akechi’s partner Yume–chan (Kyoujou Yumeji)’s father’s house, so he was saved. He stayed there until he died in July 2005, aged 65. Around 4 or 5 years. The last performance in Shibuya was a Shibari and an enema show.”

We next went on to ask Saikatsu about Akechi’s influence on, and his and Saikatsu’s involvement with Takumi Miura’s Bakuyūkai, and the evolution of the martial–arts style dōjō approach to learning rope bondage.

Saikatsu: “This is a bit complicated. I first met Miura san at Black & White in Ōtsuka (Toshima–ku, Tokyo), a kind of SM bar, and Akechi performed a few shows once a month for 3 or 4 months. The master of Black & White, Tahara san was a friend of Izumiya, and Miura was with Izumiya. Actually, Izumiya introduced Akechi to Tahara. Izumiya and Tahara had been to Nakano to see an Akechi show, and they decided to ask him to do a show in Black & White.  This was during 1994, when we were in Sasazuka.

Miura was not doing Shibari at this time. I understand he was making SM related goods. Miura says that his rope (style) is from Akechi, but I never saw him receiving instruction from Akechi. Of course, I was not with Akechi all day, so he could have had instruction without me knowing. I go to Miura’s place regularly now, but this is a long time afterwards. I just said ‘Hello’ back then when I first met him.”

As the information unfolded, this led us to pose the question that we clearly see a lot of ‘school’ approaches to rope bondage in the scene now, especially in the west, and if Miura intended this from the beginning. Readers should note the difficulty in translating the Kanji 総代, which the dictionary lists as ‘representative’. For the sake of this interview we substitute with the word ‘President’, as in prime individual.

Saikatsu: “The purpose was to teach Akechi’s rope style. Miura is now calling it a dōjō, but it was not called a dōjō at that time. We called it a training session (講習会). However, Akechi wasn’t well at that time, so he only held a few sessions at the Bakuyūkai.

Miura and also Izumiya wanted to help Akechi. They thought to provide a place for disseminating his rope style if they systematised the Bakuyūkai. However, I think Miura also had a hope to become a Nawashi at that point.

Miura lectured mainly. I do not know how much he learned from Akechi. To be honest, I feel that his style is slightly different from Akechi’s. However, all professionals develop their own style to some extent while doing so much tying. What Miura is teaching at the Bakuyūkai is quite different. It’s a kind of Miura–ryū. He called it Bakuyū style, but it’s just Miura’s style.

Miura became the second president of the Bakuyūkai after Akechi died, and the Sugamo studio in Toshima, Tokyo is Miura’s heartland. So, although I go to the dōjō, I do not express my opinion that much. I sometimes advise, and monitor grading examinations. Miura, Marou and I check if the tie has the proper tension, if it has the correct form, if the time to tie it is less than the specified minutes, and so on.

The Bakuyūkai became more like a dōjō after Miura became president. Akechi died in 2005, so it was probably 2007 or 2008 that he started to call it a dōjō and began the grading examinations.”

Piecing together long–held information from multiple reputable sources, I then enquired if we were correct in the assumption that we’ve seen e.g. Steve and his approach, and now possibly Naka and his recent change in approach, and if they come from Miura’s dōjō teaching concept.

Saikatsu: “I agree with you. In the case of Steve, exactly. It’s a good system in some ways. In a traditional (martial arts) dōjō, there would only be two classes, for beginners and for experienced students. However, the Bakuyūkai has many classes. It starts from tying wrists, and then learning step by step.”

Ugo confirmed his own understanding of how Steve gained influence by exporting the system, so that the dōjō approach became very popular overseas. It appears to concentrate on tying fixed shapes within time limits, but was agreed that the dōjō approach is much easier for teaching the basics of Shibari.

Saikatsu: “It all starts from Miura san’s idea. He was originally a person with a narrow perspective. I heard that there was a temporary offer from Steve, but Miura does not speak English. Miura told me that the fine details can’t be transmitted through an interpreter, so he refused the offer.

Miura was hospitalized for half a month last February due to illness. The vision in his left eye is impaired, so he cannot drive and his activities became limited. He refuses video work and shows, so his only activities are the dōjō, the salon, and renting the studio.”

We next went on to ask Saikatsu san to elaborate on the period when he contributed to Sanwa Publishing’s Mania Club magazine under the name Shimokawa Tetsu, and other activities before his involvement with Black Heart Ginza.

Saikatsu: “There was no special meaning in the name. Mizuki Moe, Miura’s partner at that time invited me to a social networking service called mixi, and I used it as my nickname. I met Yamagawa san who was an editor of Mania Club at that time in relation to Akechi, and I met her again at Miura’s salon. After a while I was contacted by her. She told me that she wanted to make a text book for rope bondage beginners. So, I helped her 6 or 7 times for one year and used the name Shimokawa Tetsu.

I was helping Akechi when he was performing at Black & White, and at the time a girl who was working there moved to Apron Club in Nippori (Arakawa, Tokyo), so I went out there. Then the owner of Apron Club asked me if I could do something at a Shibari event. By the way, Mizuki Moe, who later became a partner of Miura joined Apron Club and I became acquainted with her. There I met Miura again. It was some years after we first met at Black & White. After 2000, but before Akechi died.

Akechi and Miura once did a collaborative show at Miura’s studio in Sugamo.  Then they made a video called ‘Kinbaku Gikei Houten’ in April 2005, not long before Akechi passed away. By then Bakuyūkai was established, and Miura debuted as a professional Nawashi. When Akechi passed away, Miura succeeded as President of the Bakuyūkai. But I was the first who tied up Mizuki Moe. It seems that I remained in her favour. Miura also asked if he could reconnect with me, so he contacted me and we did.”

For clarity, we then asked what the relationship was between Harutokyo, Kanna and others connected to the Bakuyūkai.

Saikatsu: “Harutokyo san was vice–president of the second generation under Miura. Bakuyūkai was established in 1996 with Akechi as first President and Miura as vice–president. After Akechi passed away, Miura became President in 2006 and made Harutokyo vice–president. The name ‘Harutokyo’ was made at that time. Anyhow, Harutokyo was managing the bar BUG in Ikebukuro, and there Akechi performed several shows. I think that’s why Harutokyo learned Akechi’s rope style.

I’m not sure if Kanna san is a member of Bakuyūkai. Kanna is a person who only follows Akechi–san, so the desire to inherit Akechi’s name is still very strong. However, I think Kanna does not have much interest in Bakuyūkai, and probably wasn’t a registered member. However, he/she really respects Akechi and restarted the Phantom Show again last Autumn.

Maro san is third generation vice–president. Jubei Kamui san originally started to come to Sugamo as a dōjō student. He was already doing his rope bondage with his partner Mina san at that time. Since it was his own style, he wanted to learn more precise Shibari.

Jubei became an assistant instructor at Bakuyūkai in a very short time because he was already very good when he entered. He was obviously a big fan of Matsui san.

Matsui originally did Semenawa using thick (about ø8mm) jute rope. He was quite close with Akechi. I think they first met in the 1990s. He was a little bit older than Akechi, and always accompanied by girls. His partner acted as the model for Akechi when he could not find another model for a show. So, Akechi had a lot of respect for Matsui.

Matsui lived in Yokohama and went back and forth between Yokohama and Tokyo when he was well. Jubei first met Matsui at Miura’s studio in Sugamo. As I was taking care of him, he asked me if I would like to join him to play with masochistic girls and invited me for a meal.

Matsui happened to come to Sugamo on the last day Jubei also came. At the time, Matsui said that since he was unwell, it was difficult for him to get to Tokyo, but there was no such place in Yokohama. So, I introduced Jubei because he had his own place there. Then Matsui and Jubei talked together, and Matsui went to Jubei’s place the very next day. He went on to teach Shibari at Jubei’s place a few days a week for half a year. Maybe it would make Miura san angry if he heard it, but Matsui told Jubei to throw away what he had learned in Sugamo. Jubei’s rope style then changed completely, quite different from the Bakuyūkai style.

Matsui was hospitalized six months later. He really wanted to return, but he died in hospital after another 18 months. His tying was a mixture of sadism and eroticism. The point is that sadistic Shibari can also be play. After all, it’s sadistic rope, and there is erotic as an appendix to that. There is a photo book entitled ‘All suspension book’ (オール吊りの本). The model in the book is Midoriko, who had been a partner of Matsui for the longest time. Matsui told me that he must make her get married, and he took care of her until she did.”

Kitagawa san, who was managing Salon Kitagawa in Meguro was connected to Akechi. In my understanding, Akechi, Kitagawa and Matsui accepted each other, even though Kitagawa was somewhat hard. You could say, violent.”

We then asked Saikatsu if he could please clarify the name ‘Akechi Saiki’ and why he doesn’t use it.

Saikatsu: “I only used the name once when we were in Shimouma. Akechi received a job offer from an SM video company called Soft On Demand. He asked me if I would like to do it. I did not have my own rope at that time, so he lent me his and let me use the name ‘Akechi’. He made a business card with the name Akechi Saiki for me. But I only used the name when he permitted. I didn’t get another chance to use it again, and I would not after Akechi passed away. I was never told that I was his disciple (弟子 – Deshi). I was only helping him. My understanding is that he only permitted me to use the name for that one job.”

Unexpectedly, he then produced an actual Akechi Saiki business card.

Akechi Saiki Business Card

Saikatsu: “I carry this card because it is my treasure. But I’ll say again, just in case (it may be misunderstood), that I never use the word disciple. I’m not a disciple (Deshi, of Akechi Denki).

Akechi had no male disciple. Izumiya had been writing a blog called ‘Akechi Kikaku’ (Project Akechi) and according to it, Akechi had only three disciples: Raika, Enka and Kadera. All females, because there were no female Nawashi at the time. So, he thought that female Nawashi would have a great impact and attract customers.”

There followed the observation of politics and competition in the Japanese scene, not so very different from in the west. Discussed was the example of Kanna’s popularity overseas, and how Kanna’s fans might say that he is Akechi’s Deshi. The anti–Kanna people in Japan will argue that the real disciple is Raika.

Saikatsu: “Raika, Enka and Kadera are noted as Akechi’s official disciples. Kanna is probably not a disciple. When Kanna was managing Succubus in Ikebukuro, Akechi came. Kanna took him to a place where they were alone and talked together for about 10 minutes. After that he/she called him/herself ‘Akechi Kanna’, so he/she probably spoke about it with Akechi at that time. Since Akechi is that kind of personality, he probably easily accepted this. But Izumiya and Miura complained about it, so Kanna ceased to use the name.

At that time, Izumiya was focusing on Mai Randa, and in Shibuya, Akechi was going to focus on Kanna as a transvestite. However, Kanna says that Izumiya named him/her Kanna. For your information, I was taking charge during Akechi’s absence when Kanna first came to the Shibuya office. Kanna thought I was the person closest to Akechi, as did Raika. I was taking charge during Akechi’s absence when Raika first came to Sasazuka, so she somehow relied on me. When Raika had to do a 1–hour show at an SM tournament in Ōmiya, Saitama in place of Akechi, Izumiya called me and said that Raika needed me, and I should go there. I told Raika that I would be useless, but she said that I should come, maybe as a kind of talisman. So, if Kanna wants to use Akechi’s name, he/she needs Izumiya’s permission.

Izumiya san still has Akechi Kikaku and tries to prevent anybody doing any for–profit activities using Akechi Denki’s name. But the blog hasn’t been updated for a long time.

Before Kanna started doing the Phantom shows, he contacted me asking to meet with Izumiya, and so we all met in Shimbashi. Izumiya refused Kanna for a while, but now supports Kanna as he can now see how he/she respects and does his best for the name of Akechi Denki.

It is believed that Izumiya incinerated all Akechi’s materials: videotapes, photos, etc. I think Izumiya thought that they should not go around.”

Finally, we talked about how interest in rope bondage is expanding outside of Japan.

Saikatsu: “Well, this is a very good thing for us Japanese, and I am grateful, because Shibari with jute rope is a thing that the Japanese have been doing.  In my opinion, bondage is not tying up using rope. Bondage is to do restraint, but it’s using leather, restraining devices and so on. Of course, bondage can mean to be tied up. But it was not using jute rope until it became recognized.

Shibari with jute rope is a kind of a Japanese tradition, and I think it has spread in good ways. However, I didn’t predict that so many Kinbakushi/Nawashi would get to go abroad. I remember a conversation with Akechi while we were still in Sasazuka. He asked me to travel around the country together when I reached retirement age. There were only a few Nawashi at that time, and we thought that our status would last forever. We were looking forward to travelling around the country after my retirement. I didn’t expect our rope bondage would become so popular.”

We explained how this has led to a huge worldwide demand in interest seeking a supply to learn from. How this supply rises, often with little experience to meet the demand, profiting from teaching Shibari, and how diverse it has become (rope yoga, sport rope, etc.).

Saikatsu: “Basically, I think it’s just like that. There’s no special rule for rope bondage, and you don’t need qualifications to become a Nawashi. If you make a business card that says you’re a Nawashi, then you become a Nawashi.

But I want to do rope without leaving any damage to the other party. For example, when tying a woman with jute rope, it can be very erotic, and it can also create a sadistic atmosphere. It would be nice if you could try rope bondage only after understanding this.

There are some people who teach only after coming to a class a few times, and I think this is out of the question. It’s the same for both the Japanese and for foreigners. I think gaijin are more enthusiastic to learn rope bondage nowadays. Maybe it’s because they spend a lot of time and money to come to Japan, but I think you should definitely look at the person’s personality when doing it. We must be grateful for the partner who lets us tie them. Akechi’s original intention underlies this. For example, when a couple introduces a partner to someone, and he says, ‘This is my slave’, it is not good. That might be acceptable when you’re alone, but when you introduce someone, I think you should say something like, ‘This is my partner.’ Maybe not so many people say, ‘This is my slave’ nowadays. But in the past, I heard it a few times and thought it was wrong.”

We also asked about the use of Japanese words and phrases.

Saikatsu: “Personally, I don’t use the word Kinbaku. Akechi also didn’t use Kinbakushi, but instead, Nawashi. It’s difficult to define the difference. I think the word Shibari is heavier than Kinbaku. I think it’s a variation on the expression of tying. If you understand the meaning of the noun Kinbaku, it becomes the verb Shibari.”

Ugo and Bingo contemplated when the word Kinbaku appeared in Japan on a systematic basis, stating that Ito Seiu used the word Kinbaku, but he used it as a motif in Kabuki/Bunraku. It isn’t believed he meant it as we use it now, but it was Shibari for Ito. Kinbaku may be more of an academic term, a noun used in business and in books, and Shibari is an act to tie somebody up. Historically, Shibari may be in use for longer, as a kind of (adult) play. But when you ask various Japanese people, they will all give different answers.

Saikatsu: “This may be off–track, but once when I tied a girl at Bakuyūkai, she said that she knew from the first time that Kinbaku was different from Shibari. I asked her what she meant, but she couldn’t explain it clearly. But still, something was different. I think it depends on the experiences of the recipient.”

Ugo suggested it may probably have been different from what she imagined it would be, while Bingo deliberated that maybe the word Kinbaku had been used when she had been tied up before, and then she experienced a different kind of Kinbaku when she came to Bakuyūkai, and understood that as Shibari. We are all influenced by the words we use, and it would be fair to say that everyone has their own interpretation, even in Japan (everybody laughs).