SalonY: Opening in Nara Prefecture & Thoughts on Kinbaku

I wait on the platform at downtown Namba, only a 4-minute walk from Senkaku studio, as the train towards the idyllic prefecture of Nara pulls in. In only 40 minutes I will be transported into the luscious countryside of Japan—a welcome retreat. While I often go out this way to clear my mind in the tranquil mountains that cover the prefecture, this time was for a different purpose.

The opening of Salon Y.




Run by Yamamoto-san, a long-standing member of Kitagawa-san’s SalonK2, Salon Y serves as a space to carry on the spirit and legacy of seme-nawa and kinbaku as practiced by Kitagawa.

It’s Saturday midday. As I gaze out the train window the bustling concrete jungle of Osaka gradually gives way to endless rows of old wooden houses, fashioned in simple yet dignified traditional Japanese style with kirimizu (gabled rooftops) and beautiful natural woods. As we continue our journey, the houses become sparser and sparser, dotting the vibrant greens of the rice paddy fields framed by archetypical rolling misty mountains. For me, Nara has a special energy. It offers a sense of tranquility fused with deeper more profound power that I have felt drawn to since I arrived in Japan. So, naturally, I was ecstatic when I found out that a private kinbaku “retreat” style establishment would be opening here.

The afternoon and evening were synchronous with the view described above; serene, profound, and stimulating. A small intimate group, consisting mostly of long-standing members from Salon K2 (Yokohama) including Kitagawa and Kei-san, the afternoon composed of captivating kinbaku experiences between attendees, laughter, and conversation. As dusk settled, food and drinks were served by Yamamoto-san and Momo, and the intimate festivities continued into the night.


This time, I attended along with a male rope partner, Maru. Tying with Maru has been an exciting and intriguing challenge in my rope journey. While physiques with high muscle mass and low body fat content are often considered easier to tie, due to nerve protection offered larger muscle masses, this is not always the case. The flip side is that given the lack of body fat, one is essentially tying on a “hard” surface, meaning that the ropes have less of a surface to “grip” onto, and there is less a of a buffer. Any minute movement of the rope on the skin is felt more acutely. Learning Maru’s body has been a challenge, but through communicating and finding the best bind for him, we have developed a strong and intimate bond that allows us to now explore on a deeper level.

Another theme in the conversations of the night, was the value and role our rope partners play in guiding our development, approach, principles, and henceforth style in kinbaku.

Kitagawa maintains that his style is largely informed by his partner, Kei, who has continued to offer him feedback throughout the years. There is a lot of wisdom to be found in these words and experiences.


While I do not have just one partner, the more I delve deeper into seme-nawa style and the more I realize how dangerous or non-conducive many of the “one size fits all” rope patterns can be if not adjusted to the person you are tying. Small things such as how the rope is applied, how it sits into the skin, how the pressures change when the muscles are flexed or not flexed, how minute variances in physical flexibility can result in more pressure being applied to certain parts of the bind.


As someone that runs an establishment, I realize more than ever the limitations that tying many different people can have. It’s impossible to understand every person on a level deep enough to really delve deep into true ‘seme-nawa’ with each person.

As I enter this world and progress in my own journey away from the stage (regardless of whether it’s a “live” demonstration or a “show”), I not only have come to see “stage” rope as dangerous, and sometimes hard to watch, but also have something far removed from what kinbaku, as an intimate exchange, should be. My reasons are the repetitiveness of the same bind in short time periods, the inability to concentrate 150% of your attention on your partner, and the tendency to give preference to form rather than feeling your partners and adjusting to them and the moment. Sure it's easy to add music and lighting to create a heart-moving performance that expresses these elements. But ultimately part of one's energy and focus is on the "expression" or "conveyance."


This of course is my opinion.

As kinbaku becomes more and more mainstream, a broader range of people will start practicing it; each with their own motivations, ideas, approaches, and experiences. If you find something that works for you that’s great. I performed for many years, and may do so again in the future, albeit in a different light. However, one piece of advice, which I am also giving to myself also, is to choose one or two partners that you can really explore deeply with (this is not always easy, trust me I know). If going for more complex and intense ‘seme-nawa’ ties or tying with someone that is not your primary long-standing rope partner, then keep it simple. Keep it on, or near, the ground where you can focus 150% of your attention on your partner. And! Changes things up. Any bind on the body is causing some amount of damage to the body on a cellular level. Repeating the same bind within a short time frame is only going to increase the amount of damage to the body and increase the chance of injury.


*This is a blog, and thus a space where I discuss my ideas and thoughts on kinbaku at this point in time. I do not assume to know everything or to preach, but rather hope to convey my thinking and my journey in rope, with the hope that it may offer a perspective or “food-for-thought”.

- Milla Reika

(August, 2021)

155 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All