Asagi Ageha meets me on a back street in Kabukicho in dramatic fashion, sirens blaring from two arriving ambulances just as she steps out of the shadows.
The popular kinbaku (bondage) model is surprisingly petite in person, with striking hazel eyes.
She has just finished her self-suspension performance (a kinbaku-influenced acrobatic style) at the DX Club and we retire to a small Golden-Gai bar to discuss her career.
Ageha has been performing as a kinbaku model strictly for Steve Osada, the first non-Japanese to make it into the ranks of the bakushi (restraint masters). She has appeared in a number of DVDs and is a regular model in Tokyo’s bible of kink, S&M Sniper magazine. She also does solo suspension performances and recently held an exhibition of her gothic-styled artwork at Ginza’s Vanilla Gallery, and in her spare time she’s a university student. People talk about submissive women as the S&M scene stereotype, but Ageha is clearly strong and opinionated.
What brought you to the kinbaku world?
I had a period when my head wasn’t right. I was wanting to hurt myself and was cutting my arms and stuff. But I really didn’t like that, thought it wasn’t good. So I wondered what I should do about it. With S&M, I thought I could have more of a connection with people, while still hurting myself. I saw it as a means to an end. But I was still only 19, I hadn’t had sex yet. Sex didn’t appeal to me. For an S&M show, I’d have to strip, of course. But I thought I might be OK if it was on stage.
So how was your first time?
Well, after I started doing S&M, I stopped cutting myself. Still, I think I had the wrong idea back then. A show is a show, after all, and the punters are paying money to see it. But I was using that time for myself. Though I didn’t realize it until later, I don’t really like S&M shows, and I’m not really an S&M person.
But you’re still performing.
That’s because of my partner. I fell for him when I started modeling, and I like being able to create with him, so we’re still doing kinbaku together.
But you wouldn’t be doing S&M otherwise?
Right. And if you see our shows lately, you’ll see I’m not really doing S&M, there’s no candles or whips or stuff, just rope. Just rope and showing the connection between us. For example, Hiromi (Saotome, in “Bakushi”) has been performing for a long time, she really loves fetish and kinbaku from her soul. She’s a little different from me. She loves being tied up, so she’ll ask Nureki-sensei or someone to tie her. In my case, I love my partner, and that comes first.
Do you think kinbaku is a kind of art?
I often hear people calling kinbaku an art form, but I don’t care for that. If you make a movie like “Bakushi” for general release, or if you perform in a gallery then it’s “art,” but if you do the same thing in a strip club, then it’s “adult” and “obscene.” Whatever. And this “kinbaku is therapy” stuff. . . basically, a nawashi’s (rope master) job — far more than the rope work — is selling women’s nakedness. Sure there’s art and therapy and all these other sub-aspects, but the main job is selling skin. Without naked girls, they couldn’t do anything. Also, there are a lot of young girls who just get involved without being aware of what they’re doing. They think it’s “art,” and the next thing you know they wind up in a porn video.
What would you say to people who still view kinbaku as violence against women or ijime (bullying)?
This is a really general answer, but you know it’s the consent between two people. The agreement. Ijime is completely different in that respect. These days there’s so much domestic violence and bullying out in society. I can’t believe anyone would look at shibari (bondage) and think it’s the same thing. When I’m tied up, sure, it will look hard; I’ll have a pained expression on my face and have no control of my body, but I’m happy — or I guess it’s my decision to do it. If I thought it was unbearable, I’d stop doing it, wouldn’t I?
See www.a-geha.com for Asagi Ageha’s performance schedule.