A Trip to Japan - Meetings with Remarkable Men # 5a -
by Master "K"
If Akira Naka (whom we met in the last edition of this series) is perhaps best known for his fine video work (particularly the "Rope Joy" series) then the equally well known bakushi Arisue Go might justly be called the literary rope master for his excellent series of "how to tie" books, his other writings and photographic works and his participation in several of the more recent filmic versions of Dan Oniroku's famous SM novel "Flower and Snake."
I had the privilege of meeting Arisue's lovely partner Kogure several years ago when she visited San Diego and it was through her gracious arranging that Arisue had kindly accepted my offer of an 8 PM meeting over coffee and drinks. I eagerly looked forward to it.
However, as the time for our appointment came and went and Arisue had still not arrived, I grew concerned. The Japanese are very particular about being on time so I feared that somehow I might have given Kogure the wrong address for our get-together. In order to be sure I hadn't, I went down to the front desk to double check my facts. As I neared the entrance, I saw with relief that Kogure and a male companion were hurrying in from the night. However, as I watched and the couple reached the dim, street lit entrance, they suddenly paused. What were they doing? To my surprise I realized that Kogure's male friend was putting on dark sunglasses before entering the hotel. Sunglasses? At night? And then I understood. Like an actor donning a costume, he was putting on his sunglasses to become ... Arisue Go! He would wear them throughout our encounter.
On reflection, this theatricality and "identity branding," as the marketers would call it, seems quite fitting for a bakushi who has survived the ups and downs of Japan's tumultuous BDSM world for the last 30 years or more. His inimitable look IS his trademark and he's right to protect this valuable commodity. After all, of the famous bakushi alive today, Arisue Go is the only one to have appeared in two mainstream films as an actor and bakushi (the 2004 hit "Flower and Snake" and its follow up "Flower and Snake 2 - Paris" in 2005).
As our evening began and we talked I find that, unlike the affable Akira Naka, there's a cool formality to Arisue Go but that doesn't keep him from responding graciously to questions about his long and varied career.
I tell him that I've long admired his teaching materials, especially his books, both those in Japanese and the several shorter ones he's done in English. I find them sensible, attractive and safety-minded. He modestly replies that he's been fortunate in his publishing work thanks to his long friendship with the president of the powerful Sanwa publishing group. He adds that since the art of kinbaku is always evolving he continually tries to improve his books and teaching methods.
In this he's been most successful and his straightforward, gentle and common sense approach to kinbaku technique with its obvious concern for the safety and well being of the "rope partner," both physically and mentally, holds real value for kinbaku lovers and practitioners of all skill levels.
I then ask which of his many "model books" does he prefer? For those readers unfamiliar with this type of publication, they are usually coffee table sized photo books featuring one or more attractive models in various settings and costumes and often including kinbaku. In Japan light, attractive "bondage" is often seen as just another sexy element of erotica. Without thinking, Arisue replies that his favorite model book is "Ambient M" featuring the model Toyota Maho. I agree. This beautiful book from 2000 by the gifted photographer Anju really is a stunner. The color photography is lush and impressive and beautifully conveys Toyota's delicate, waifish beauty. I ask Arisue about the kinbaku and he replies that doing it was satisfying but very challenging because the model was not really capable of withstanding much forceful, "real" tying.
known for its "soft hands" look and feel and its "kuzushi nawa" (random rope) qualities. We discuss another younger rope stylist currently traveling the world doing performances and again Arisue is politely and controversially unenthusiastic, criticizing the performer's lack of commitment to safety. It's clear that, even in the polite world of Japan, politics play as much a part in their rope scene as they regretfully do in ours. However, Arisue Go has seen it all and survived.
As I walk back to my hotel room after seeing my guests off into the Tokyo night, I'm struck by the contrasts between the warm Akira Naka and the cooler, more reserved master Arisue Go. Both men are intelligent, impressive in person and uniquely talented but they do present remarkable contrasts that subtly speak volumes about the complex Tokyo SM scene. It's been a pleasure meeting them both.
Please join me next time as my
"Trip to Japan - Meetings with Remarkable Men" series concludes and
we spend some quality time with my good friend Osada Steve!