Nostalgia and The Six Degrees of Kinbaku

I've recently got quite wrapped up in matters involving the history of kinbaku in Japan as well as the exchange of SM materials between Japan and the US.

Thanks to Master "K", I learned that there was an outfit in Japan called the Phoenix Co. and that it was responsible for sending some very high quality, color bondage images across the Pacific in the 1970s. I saw at least two of these magazines with my own eyes. My memory is fading but I believe they were titled Osaka Bondage and Sapporo Bondage.

I'm not sure if I believed at the time the photos were actually taken in those cities, but now I simply think the people who published the magazines in the US found these to be convenient titles.

Interestingly, there was another magazine which contained a lot of black and white pictures which were not nearly as professional-looking as in the case of the previously cited magazines. But at the same time, they also did not have the "look" of early images appearing in the venerable magazine Kitan Club. They were uncensored and a bit crude-looking.

It appears that these photos were the result of amateur "camera clubs". It is quite amazing they found their way to the West. One Japanese commenter said they would have been hard to find even in Japan in those days.

But the plot thickens.

Western bondage images were published in Japanese magazines not only in the 70s but as far back as 1954 in Kitan Club. Perhaps the most popular Western artist was John Willie.

Willie died in 1962 and finding out what connections existed between East and West in those days is not easy. As far as I know, even though Willie was born in Singapore, he never set foot in Japan.

Willie was a British subject and lived in Australia and later in New York and Los Angeles. I once had a picture which purported to be his office/studio in Los Angeles and, as I recall, it was either in Hollywood or very close to Hollywood.


One article mentioned that he liked to bend his elbow at a pub called The Cock 'n' Bull. The old Cock 'n' Bull appears to have been located in West Hollywood, so that would not have been a very long drive from Willie's studio.

Willie published a magazine over the years called Bizarre. There is information out there that a certain Air Force officer gave at least one issue of Bizarre to the editors of Kitan Club (which was located in Osaka). There is also information concerning another US serviceman (in Okinawa) who was John Willie's connection in Japan for kinbaku images.

In fact, according to Master "K", it is almost certain that Willie was influenced by Japanese kinbaku over the course of his career as an artist.

Some of us amateur sleuths are attempting to put a few more pieces of the puzzle together but it is an arduous task.

All this causes me to think once again what a small place this SM world is. As my friend likes to say: "Everything's connected!" That may be true, at least in a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon sort of way.


For example, after writing the article of my interview with Sugiura Norio, I started to become fascinated with the old locations used for bondage magazine and video shoots. One such location in Tokyo, which was used by some very big names over the years, was the Atami Ryokan. The link is in Japanese but you will see some photos there that may look familiar. Check out the one of the girl hanging from the fence. This was very near the Ueno Zoo. Sadly, the ryokan was turned into a parking lot.

And then there were the theaters which hosted the movie shows and live pink theater acts. One such theater was the Ginza Chikyuza. I don't think it is still in existence.

Speaking of theaters, and in keeping with the theme of this post, there used to be a theater in Los Angeles called the Linda Lea. Apparently it started out as the Arrow theater in 1924 and later changed its name to the Aztec. At one point it was a theater catering to African-Americans and later it showed Spanish language movies.

Not only that, but at one point in its history it was a burlesque theater. This reminded me so much of the story of the early burlesque theaters in Japan. I seem to have lost the link, but I read one story about the Linda Lea that explained there were two movies shown as well as a live burlesque act. This is exactly how Mr. Sugiura described the situation in Japan.

At some point a former US serviceman took over the Linda Lea and turned it into a theater showing Japanese films exclusively. This information is what I recall from having read an article years ago. More recently, I read that the Linda Lea had a deal with Toei to show their films and samurai and yakuza films were the main attractions.

However, in the early 80s I stumbled upon the Linda Lea. By that time it had been closed for a long time. It was in complete disrepair and no one seemed to be doing anything about it.

I peeked through the window and there on the wall, about ready to fall off, was a poster for a Japanese pink film. I have always wondered since then if the Linda Lea didn't slip in the occasional SM film as well. Actually, I would be surprised if that wasn't the case.


Recently, the theater was pretty much demolished and a new, modern theater has taken its place which apparently will showcase Asian cinema. However, as the crew was tearing the place down, they found 11 old movie posters behind a wall. As a huge fan of these types of posters, I would have loved to have made that discovery!

It was tempting to wonder if the serviceman who started showing Japanese films at the Linda Lea was maybe the same one who had been sending John Willie SM pictures from Japan. That theory was quickly put to rest when the timeline didn't work and I learned that the serviceman who had been based in Okinawa returned to live in another state.

The Linda Lea wasn't the only Japanese movie theater in Los Angeles. There were at least two others that I am aware of: The Toho La Brea and the Fuji-kan.

I have a photo here of the Fuji-kan but I wasn't able to find one for the Toho La Brea. However, I did find a couple of steamy newspaper ads for films that were shown there. They were labeled Adults Only.

Everything's connected. You just have to keep following the threads.


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