Due to the public occurrence of hojojutsu being used for both capture and punishment, during the Edo period hojojutsu started to appear in Japanese literature, graphic arts and drama. This is much like in the West and the mythologising of the "outlaw" - the blend of fear and fascination.


Kabuki originated in 1603. Originally performers were female, and were available for prostitution after the performance (ka=song, bu=dance, ki=prostitute, although ki was later changed to the character for skill). Because of this, women were subsequently banned from performing as they were seen as a threat to public morality.

Kabuki offered contemporary stories including tales of outlaws and samurai, and therefore used narratives of violence, capture and punishment. This use of violence and punishment lead to the concept of zankoku no bi, or the "quality of beauty arising in scenes of torture or death that are performed in a stylised, musical fashion."

Famous kabuki plays included Kinkakuji with Princess Yuki bound to a cherry tree, and the tale of Princess Chujo, which has her bound and left in the falling snow by her tormentors.


Shunga is the Japanese term for erotic art, and means "picture of spring", "spring" being a euphemism for sex. The most common form of shunga is woodblock prints (ukiyo-e, or pictures of the floating world), produced between the early 17th and early 20th centuries.

In the Edo period ukiyo-e shunga prints were mass produced for townsmen and the merchant class who were not wealthy enough to afford originals. They expressed the sexual mores of the toownsmen, and included depictions of heterosexual, homosexual and fetish acts.

One of the most famous ukiyo-e artists was Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1829-1892). He had the ability to aestheticise and eroticise seme-e, or art that depicts a scene of domination or punishment.

Yoshitoshi was a major influence on the artist Ito Seiyu (1882-1962), who is considered to be the "grandfather" of modern shibari.