My decision to write an article about the history of shibari was an easy one, actually writing it was much, much, more difficult than it sounds. For one there is no unanimous agreement on the history, information is difficult to find and more often than not incomplete which leaves you guessing a lot.

Most authorities in the field of shibari agree on the fact that shibari as we now know it has its origins in the ancient martial art hojojutsu. Since shibari’s probable forefather hojojutsu is deeply rooted in the Japanese cultural it is impossible to NOT add some of Japan’s history to this article. Even if it’s only to properly outline the history of shibari. This article tries to expose through a timeline how hojojutsu evolved from an ancient martial art into the shibari style to date.

History in a Nutshell

Before we start talking about Japanese history I would like to present the Japanese history in a commonly accepted periodization. It should give you a rough outline for a better understanding of names, times and periods we will talk about.

One commonly accepted periodization of Japanese history:

History of Japan
DatesPeriodSub period
Major Government
prehistory –
circa 300 BC
circa 300 BC –
250 AD
circa 25 –
538 AD
Yamato Imperial Government
538 – 710 ADAsuka
710 – 794Nara 
794 – 1185Heian 
1185 – 1333Kamakura 
Kamakura shogunate
1333 – 1336Kemmu restoration 
Emperor of Japan
1336 – 1392MuromachiNanboku-cho
Ashikaga shogunate
1392 – 1573early
Sengoku period
1573 – 1603Azuchi-Momoyamalatter
Sengoku period
1600 – 1867Edo 
Tokugawa shogunate
1868 – 1912Meiji 
Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito)
1912 – 1926Taisho 
Taisho (Yoshihito)
1926 – 1945ShowaExpansionism
1945 – 1952
Occupied Japan
1952 – 1989
1989 – presentContemporary 
Emperor Akihito


  • B.C. = Before Christ
  • A.C. = After Christ
  • A.D. = “Anno Domini”, a Latin phrase meaning “in the year of the Lord” and referring to the years after that.