Midori’s BDSM Travel Guide: Kinky Japan

By Midori © 2022

Photos by Midori, 2022 and  Norio Sugiura 杉浦則夫 

 

Imagine putting The Jetsons, Blade Runner, Lost In Translation, Marie Kando, and big bee hives into a giant blender. Then pour the contents into an exquisite hand-crafted raku bowl and top it with a robotic talking cherry with kitten ears. That’s what a day in Tokyo can feel like.

 

If you‘re traveling to Japan in search of kinky hot spots, these are some of the BDSM social activities that you won’t find:  Munches, community dungeon parties with potlucks, hotel take-over BDSM conferences, non-pro play parties with publicly-available ticket portals, educational series on consent and negotiation, openly kink-aware mental-health care, college courses on human sexuality covering BDSM accurately, Leather title contests, kinky markets with vendors, political or personal rights activism, or Folsom Street Fair where kink happens as an open-air festival. 

 

Why? Well, there’s a short answer and a long answer. Before you set off on your trip, I highly recommend reading my article about the history of kink in Japan. It will help you better understand the sometimes stark differences between Japanese BDSM culture and what’s standard in the west. This knowledge is a prerequisite for navigating kinky events, businesses, and bars in Japan.  

 

I just returned from my most recent trip to Tokyo. My travel log just so happens to double as a kinky travel guide too. Here are my top kink and fetish-related recommendations.

 

Midori’s Recommendations: Kinky Bars with Shibari Events

 

After spending a day navigating the colorful chaos of Tokyo,  you can soothe your shattered mind with some art. Head over to Vanilla Gallery, which is anything but vanilla in its curation. 

 

Take a look at their artist list! From Sorayama’s super-sleek femme bots to Tagame Gengoro’s hyper-masculine hardcore gay kink illustrations, to Natalie Shau’s haunted beauties.

 

During this trip, I spent my free time being a kinky lounge lizard at two BDSM bars: Bar Black Heart and Bar Taboo

 

There are many more kink-themed bars of different types. These two just happened to be the ones I “conducted research” at during this trip. Stay tuned for my future reports on adventures in other venues.

Vanilla Gallery, photo by Midori

Vanilla Gallery, photo by Midori

Bar Black Heart

 

Black Heart had been one of my regular haunts. On this trip, my first return since COVID, I was relieved to learn that it was back in operation.

 

It’s located in the posh Ginza area, in a narrow alley right across from one of the super-exclusive sushi restaurants where you need an introduction and a month’s advance booking to get into. Unlike that sushi joint, Black Heart is very welcoming, and you can pop in without any reservations. Don’t let the Gothic stairs into the dark basement intimidate you. This bar is friendly to foreigners and non-Japanese speakers. Not all bars and entertainment spaces welcome the gaijin. Also, it’s a very comfortable place for women to go in groups or solo to hang out.

 

One of the hostesses will greet you at the door, usually clad in lingerie or light fetish wear. They will ask you if you’ve been there before, sussing out if you know what you’re walking into. They’ll take your coat and bags and secure them. Your stuff is safe there.

 

You’ll walk into its gorgeously appointed deep red and black interior with many pervy art and sculptures, including a sexy creepy doll covered in roses in a glass-covered tub looking like a twisted Sleeping Beauty.

 

Black Heart is a more casual and relaxed hostess bar — often called Kyabakura, short for Cabaret Club. No hard sell and no excessive flattery to push expensive drinks. You’re not “assigned” one hostess who spends the entirety of your visit with you. Instead, the friendly staff will move from table to table, talking to one or many customers simultaneously. The hostesses will come and sit with you and make small talk. They will offer you their business cards with their working name on them. Receive it with both hands, read it carefully, and try to remember their name. This is customary. 

 

They will ask if you are S, M, or F – which means top, bottom, or fetishist – and give you a coaster to indicate this. Do not take this too seriously. It’s just a fun icebreaker. Many western visitors get a bit too hung up on this. Just pick one and order your drink. Most people are there in regular daytime streetwear or date night clothing. I’ve also seen men change into some femme attire there as well. While some kink bars have performances and shows, Black Heart usually does not. Sometimes there’s a little bit of light kink between worker and customer. Sometimes a pair of customers might play while the rest of us watch and drink.

 

They have some basic toys, mostly bondage and impact items. Antlers mounted on the wall showcase many of these toys. You can ask about them and even try them out. 

Every Tuesday night is “Lady’s Day,” with half price cover charge, free drinks, and no hourly fee.

 

Want to watch or try shibari or kinbaku? Go for their Kinbaku Suki classes and social nights. You’ll also find special event nights for fetish dressing, games, and celebrations. 

Bar Black Heart, by Midori, 2022.

Bar Black Heart, by Midori, 2022.

Bar Black Heart, by Midori, 2022.

Bar Black Heart, by Midori, 2022.

Bar Black Heart, by Midori, 2022.

Bar Black Heart, by Midori, 2022.

Bar Taboo

 

A five-minute leisurely stroll through Ginza will get you to Bar Taboo, Black Heart’s charming little sister bar. Taboo is a cozy kink-themed casual hostess lounge. Miss Shirauki, the bar ‘mama,’ is a lovely and sweet lady who has a firm command of the space, loves kink, and is gentle with nervous and new customers.

Bar TABOO, by Midori, 2022.

Bar TABOO, by Midori, 2022.

Bar TABOO, by Midori, 2022.

Midori’s Recommendations: Stunning Shibari Photos 

I simply adore Mr. Norio Sugiura. He’s a brilliant photographer known for his stunning shibari photography. Most people aren’t aware of this, but his iconic imagery has profoundly influenced shibari in Japan and shin-shibari, the contemporary global rope styles. Over the past 50 years, he’s collaborated with well-known performers, both on the tying and receiving sides, while influencing modern rope aesthetics. 

Photo by Norio Sugiura

His kink photos are sublime, yet what gets me deep in my bones are his still lifes and “snapshots.” I spent some time with him, eating delicious unagi and visiting Hanazono Shrine for their legendary annual Tori-No-Ichi festival. He shared with me some of his recent experimental still-life photos. They took my breath away. I highly recommend his retrospective photography book showcasing the best of his work from 1972 to 2017.

Photo by Norio Sugiura

Photo by Norio Sugiura

Midori with Norio Sugiura

Photo by Norio Sugiura

Photo by Norio Sugiura

Midori’s Recommendations: Sex-Positive Shop for Women, Non-binary, and Queer Folks

 

After significant research, I’ve discovered that there is one, just one, genuinely sex-positive feminist and queer-friendly sex shop in all of Japan; Love Piece Club in Tokyo. They have a strong web presence and an elegant boutique in the super fashionable Laforet building in Harajuku. They also host special events and offer sexuality information and advice services for women. 

 

For those of us in North America and Europe today, it’s common to find a sex-positive and gender-affirming sex toy shop or two in most large cities and many smaller towns. Even people who live far from brick-and-mortar shops can order easily online. It really is a privilege that we ought not to take for granted. 

 

In Japan, you can find plenty of places selling sex toys, but most are sleazy and retro in the worst ways. They range from dingy sad shacks trading on shame reminiscent of Times Square of yore, Vegas-looking florid neon-colored shops selling teeny tiny club wear and cheap vibes, or back corner sections of massive general stores like the Donki chain. Don’t get me wrong. I like a bit of sleaze and dirt now and then, but when that’s all that’s available and they cater to otaku boys and geezers, a nice perv gets pretty grumpy. 

 

Love Piece Club was founded in 1996 by Minori Kitahara. She’s a true maverick, rabble-rouser, and activist for sex positivity and the rights of women and marginalized people. 

 

On a Serious Note: My trip to Bar Black Heart wasn’t just as a customer. I was there to teach a rope and consent class for women.

 

Black Heart invited me as a guest teacher for their monthly women-only Shibari workshop, “Otome Nawakai.” They asked me to present on negotiation, agency, boundary, consent, and dynamic movement in private rope play. This was a heartbreakingly profound invitation for me. Why? Because women’s consent and agency are not taught, discussed, or supported in Japan, much less clear negotiation before play. The small club filled up with women of varying experiences. At first, they were quiet and unsure. Such workshops aren’t the norm. By the end of the class, we were laughing, moving, and tying. After the class ended, the bar opened to the public. Conversations buzzed for the rest of the evening, and new friendships formed. 

 

The ugly reality is that there is a lot of gender-based violence and sexual assaults in Japan. It may seem a strange paradox that there should be such crimes in such a clean, well-ordered, and seemingly low-crime country. It’s a well-hidden national shame that is getting some light shed on it. (please see references below) 

 

I don’t want this report to be just a blithely-written travel log. I don’t want to blow culturally romantic smoke up your ass. You deserve the real scoop. In Japan, saying a direct “NO” in ordinary small talk or business conversations is difficult enough, much less for women in sexual situations. Please consider this if you want to hook up with Japanese women. Not saying “No” is not an implied “Yes” — and drunk people suck at setting or holding boundaries or saying No. 

 

Be A Fantastic Global Kinkster!

 

I love history and culture nerding! May this whet your appetite to explore and investigate the fantastic and ingenious ways people worldwide engage in pervery and darker eros. Learning and appreciating how others get it on helps us understand ourselves better, do our kink better, and become fantastic Global Kinksters. Maybe we can spank up some world peace, whip up joy, and unfetter compassion.

 

I want you to visit Japan. It’s wonderful, complex, baffling, delicious, beautiful, silly, serious, futuristic, ancient, and exciting.

2022 Midori Tokyo street scene in Ginza

Kinky Hostess Bar Etiquette & How To Be Their Favorite Customer

 

  • Understand each venue’s fee structure, the “system” or the ‘shisutemu,’ usually, there is a flat cover charge + charge by the duration of stay (by half hour or hour) + drink and food charge. It adds up fast. Cash is better, but most take credit cards, not debit cards. Cash is still king in Japan.
  • Go to places recommended by trusted people. Some places scam.
  • Don’t leave cash tips. Instead, ‘buy’ them a drink. You may pay the price of an expensive drink, even as she might drink iced tea. It’s one of the ways gratuity is given.
  • Don’t touch them. Don’t make lewd comments.
  • Understand that they are doing a job.
  • The hostess will give you their card. If you become a regular, they may even text, DM, or call you to tell you about special events or that they miss you. This is customer service. They are not dating you. 
  • Bringing gifts for their birthdays or special occasions is nice. 
  • Have lovely conversations with them but don’t go into personal details. 
  • In BDSM-themed clubs, you can ask if you can try a kink activity with someone, such as “Can I feel what it’s like to be tied up?” “How might I learn how to tie someone?” They might have someone who will show you, and they might not. Don’t demand. Don’t make it personal. 
  • It’s ok to bring one or two of your toys. Do NOT bring your giant toy bag.
  • Try practicing your Japanese. You could ask them to teach you kink words! 
  • You will be flattered. Some of this will be sincere. Much of it is part of the script. Enjoy the warm and fuzzy feelings of asymmetrical performative empathy while understanding that it’s their craft and it’s not personal.
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Midori

Your Fairy God-Auntie of Kink. Exploding Expectations. Challenging Conventions.”

Trailblazing educator, sexologist, artist, and irritant to banality, Midori founded Rope Dojo and ForteFemme: Women’s Dominance Intensive. She penned the first English instruction book on Shibari, “Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage” in 2001, paving the way for the popularity of rope. Dan Savage calls her the “Super Nova of Kink,” while others affectionately call her Auntie Midori for her cool, tell-it-like-it-is, funny, reality-based teaching. 

She is also the author of “Wild Side Sex,” “Master Han’s Daughter,” and “Silk Threads.”

Education, Coaching, Private Learning & Art:   https://planetmidori.com

Special membership perks! Learn, laugh, and enjoy her special online classes, events, and art at www.patreon.com/PlanetMidori  where she is working on her next shibari book!

Contact: https://fhp-inc.com/contact/

Links

Workshops, articles, art, events – currently all on www.patreon.com/planetmidori where she is working on her next shibari

bookFetLife: Midori

IG: @PlanetMidori

Twitter: @PlanetMidori

FaceBook: @MidoriReallyMidori  

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