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
Dates Period Sub period
Major Government
prehistory –
circa 300 BC
circa 300 BC –
250 AD
circa 25 –
538 AD
Yamato Kofun
Yamato Imperial Government
538 – 710 AD Asuka
710 – 794 Nara  
794 – 1185 Heian  
1185 – 1333 Kamakura  
Kamakura shogunate
1333 – 1336 Kemmu restoration  
Emperor of Japan
1336 – 1392 Muromachi Nanboku-cho
Ashikaga shogunate
1392 – 1573 early
Sengoku period
1573 – 1603 Azuchi-Momoyama latter
Sengoku period
1600 – 1867 Edo  
Tokugawa shogunate
1868 – 1912 Meiji  
Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito)
1912 – 1926 Taisho  
Taisho (Yoshihito)
1926 – 1945 Showa Expansionism
1945 – 1952
Occupied Japan
1952 – 1989
1989 – present Contemporary  
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.