Rope plays an important role in Japan's national religion of Shinto, or "The Way of the Gods". Kami, or gods, goddesses, divine spirits and demonic/semi-benevolent nature spirits are thought to inhabit natural places, including rocks, trees and grass. These places where Kami reside are encircled with a shimenawa, a rope festooned with sacred white paper. Shimenawa are also commonly found on the Torii, the ceremonial gateways of Shinto shrines.
In addition to the shimenawa, Shinto also uses rope for:
- Chinowa - a rope ring used for cleansing ceremonies
- Kadomatsu - a tied stand of bamboo or pine at the entrance of a house to welcome in the New Year
- Hinawa - a thin cord lit at a shrine, and brought back home, so all that live there can enjoy prosperity
Whilst Buddhism has fewer uses of rope compared to Shinto, rope is still significant. There is the "endless knot" of Buddhism, symbolising the intertwining of wisdom and compassion. The deity Fudo Myo-O is depicted with a sword in his right hand (wisdom cutting through ignorance) and a rope in his left (to catch and bind demons).
Along with the transmission of Buddhism from China to Japan came the Kama Sutra. A uniquely Japanese version was developed called the Shijuhatte, or "48 sexual positions", including four positions that utilise rope, of cords from a kimono, to bind a partner.