For a Master Class in Kinbaku
Over the 40+ years I've been studying and teaching the art of Kinbaku it has been my good fortune and my pleasure to be able to collect quite a number of interesting works of art, including archival photographs, original illustrations and paintings.
As I discuss in my book "The Beauty of Kinbaku," the history of Japanese rope is replete with numerous wonderful artists who over the decades have worked to create powerful and artistic images as illustrations for magazines, books or, in the days of classical Ukiyo-e (Japanese printmaking) from the 16th to the 19th centuries, colorful prints for sale.
Yakuza and shrine festival: an original by Kobinata Ichimu.
Inside a Yoshiwara pleasure house: an original by Kobinata Ichimu.
One of my favorite artists from this Golden Age of Kinbaku publishing is the tremendously talented Kobinata Ichimu.
Some of the great names from history include the 19th century Ukiyo-e print master Yoshitoshi, Itoh Seiu (the father of modern Kinbaku) and Minomura Kou (whose artist name was Kita Reiko) who revolutionized the world of BDSM publishing in Japan in the 1950s when he worked for the now legendary magazine Kitan Club.
In my opinion, Kobinata was one of the top five talents working in the field. He originally trained as a Buddhist religious painter (!) and also worked illustrating historical texts and even children's books.
Recently, a tip from some good friends in Japan led me to an out-of-the-way secondhand bookstore in Okinawa where I was able to find, to my astonishment, some original Kobinata illustrations that he drew sometime between the late 1960s and the early 1980s for one of the numerous Japanese BDSM publications of the era; probably SM Select or SM Collector. What is wonderful about these works is the artist's mastery of color and the clever invention of his compositions.
He had a genius for BDSM illustration and a fertile, creative mind for drawing pictures that always told a story. He was also the supreme colorist of all the BDSM illustrators (with the possible exception of Itoh Seiu) and the clothing, fabrics and kimonos depicted in his pictures were always something special to behold.
In these drawings, which depict samurai warriors and their prisoners, scenes from the famous (or infamous) Edo era Yoshiwara pleasure district and Yakuza celebrating a shrine festival where carrying heavy, portable floats was part of the ceremonies (and which is still practiced today), we clearly see the influence of such legendary older Japanese masters as the landscape genius Hiroshige and the world renowned Hokusai.
As you view these original illustrations I respectfully suggest you look not just at the wonderful and dramatic main figures but also at the beautiful backgrounds: the fireworks and festival imagery and the beautiful street scene in the rain. In my opinion, it is in these details, on which Kobinata lavished so much attention, that this gifted artist brought these fascinating pictures to life.
The original hashmarks used to facilitate the photography for publication can still be seen on each image as is Kobinata's "chop" or signature stamp.
Samurai fireworks and shame: an original by Kobinata Ichimu.
Winter punishment: an original by Kobinata Ichimu.
I remember long ago my dear sensei Urato Hiroshi telling me that when he worked for one of the Kinbaku magazine publishing houses in the early 1970s it was one of his duties to go to the various artist's homes to pick up their illustrations. Sometimes they wouldn't be ready and Urado sensei would watch in amazement as artists like Kobinata knocked these beautiful works off in a couple of hours!
The skill, artistry and training shown in these illustrations is simply amazing and I only wish I could exhibit and talk about these pieces more often in person to my students and those interested in this aspect of Kinbaku Art. In any case, I'm delighted to be able to share these recent acquisitions today with my friends and readers on the net.
(Please note, for those interested in pursuing this topic further there are complete biographies of all of the talented artists mentioned in this article in "The Beauty of Kinbaku.")