Currently reading : Milla Reika
I met Milla Reika (ãƒŸãƒ©å¶ºèŠ± ) when shooting a Hans Bellmer inspired bondage video for the upcoming Sang Bleu 7 in Berlin with Gestalta and Cathy Walsh at Lee Wagstaff’s Rise Gallery. She was finishing a long few weeks session of rehearsal for Cirque Shibari and about to fly back to Japan. I asked a her a few questions afterwards to get to know a bit more about her.
You are originally from Australia but you have been working as a bondage rigger and performer for few years in Japan and internationally now. Were you already doing this profession before moving to Osaka? Could you tell us how you got started?
No, for me I only really realised Kinbaku and BDSM after coming to Japan. I had never placed foot on a stage in my life nor considered this profession previously. Often I think back and wonder how in the world did I end up here. I was (and possibly still am) quite a spontaneous and live by the moment type.
My interest in Kinbaku first appeared when came across a Kinbaku photo book in a tiny sex store in back streets of Amsterdam. This was when I was 19 and aside from that it wasn’t until I went to Japan 5 years later that I came across it for a second time.
A year after arriving in Japan I was fortunate enough to meet an English girl, Ellie Streichholz, at a fetish event, whom later introduced me to a SM & Bondage Bar, Matrix. After going along as a customer and expressing interest in learning Kinbaku, I was then invited to work there as an apprentice Mistress (Dominatrix).
Working at Matrix opened up a whole new world for me, which I dove myself into quite quickly and easily. Its depths, dynamic and beauty invoked an intense curiosity and passion to pursue and discover more. During my time working at Matrix trained in Kinbaku with instruction from the Mama-san at Matrix and then through various other Osaka-based Nawashi (rope masters). From from that point, things just continued and before I knew it, I was being invited to do stage performances at local events, which in turn led to international offers a few years following.
Japan being the birthplace of Shibari and riggers being traditionally male, how do you feel as a female westerner rigger in there? Are you sticking to Shibari traditions or do you like to mix it up with American bondage for example?
This question is slightly difficult to answer as it depends on one`s definition of traditional Kinbaku or Shibari as some people call it. Kinbaku is particular to Japan with a long history and associated culture. Like any culture it is salient and continues to change and diverge in styles as a response to environmental changes and the emergence of new ideas, desires and needs. In Japan, there are many different styles and amongst the various `Nawashi` (rope masters) there are also more `traditionalist` and also more `progressive` styles. Furthermore, with performance arena opening up and with Kinbaku appearing more and more in the `open` there has been a move towards more dynamic style of rope with suspension which involves numerous transitions which you don`t see as much in the more traditional style of Kinbaku.
However, to answer your question, given that I’ve only ever trained in Japan and that my exposure to `American bondage` is very limited I would like to think that my style is what you would call `Japanese Kinbaku`. The foundations, core concept, ideas and knowledge of both Japanese culture and Japanese Kinbaku which has been imparted onto me is something that I continually endeavour to deepen in understanding and apply to my rope.
As a female Western rigger, I wouldn’t say it hasn’t been a journey without challenges. However as a whole, I don`t feel that these challenges have been particular to my nationality or gender. Like any profession, one has to earn their recognition and respect. This also means that one has to often put aside their own sense of `pride` or `ego` and put up with things that you don`t necessarily understand or agree with.
However this is part of the journey and these experiences for me it has not only been humbling but also what I consider to have been a vital part of my progression and development.
For me, my biggest concern was that I wanted to be recognised in my own right: not because I was a foreigner and not because I was female but because I was a good rope artist. Furthermore, there was the obvious challenge of overcoming the language and cultural barriers and as such I had to apply myself further in order to understand the cultural and linguistical nuances and codes of social behaviour in addition to technique and concepts of Kinbaku itself.
I have used the word Shibari, but you are referring to your practice as Kinbaku. Do you have an opinion on using one more than the other, and why?
You seem to travel a lot, often for work, which involve you getting in contact with BDSM/Fetish scenes all over the world, would you be able to draw some comparisons between the ones you have experienced? Any favourite and why?
To be honest I still feel quite naive when it comes to the fetish/SM scenes in the West. Despite being Australian when it comes to the fetish world/scenes I often feel like a foreigner in my own culture when visiting the West. Kind of like, `oh so that’s how they do it here`.
On one side of things, I feel that BDSM/Kinbaku is something that transcends cultures and regardless of peoples` background I think as humans we ultimately are pursuing the same goal. However, on the other side there are many subtle differences that are difficult to pinpoint exactly but are also quite apparent.
Definitely I feel that the psyche surrounding concepts of shame, guilt and humiliation are quite different between Japanese and Western people and this impacts the dynamic and responses between two people when they are tying together. Furthermore, Kinbaku is still something that is quite new in the West and as such I feel that there is definitely this `hype` surrounding Kinbaku which doesn`t exist so much in Japan where it is long established.
No particular favourites per se however during my time in Berlin, I felt that there was quite a progressive outlook and openness towards Kinbaku and BDSM, which really appealed to me. At Schwelle 7, they seemed to be doing a lot of workshops that combined meditation, Tantra and expressive movement with BDSM/Kinbaku. This is something I hadn`t experienced before and would be quite interested in exploring further.
You are performing publicly in Japan, where does it take place? Are you performing exclusively in fetish clubs/venues?
I perform at quite large variety of sub-cultural events and venues not limited to Fetish/SM. For example, I often get asked to perform at DJ/Music events and Minority Art Events. If I’m performing at a DJ/Music event I will often try to go for a performance style that is quite fast and more elaborately visual to match the theme of the event. I think this allows me to reach a wider audience without compromising my own style and principles. Its also quite exciting for me to be able to challenge myself in different environments with a different audience with different sets of expectations
Being widely documented through photographic reportages, fetish seems to be big in Japan. What is the reality like? Is it ok to be out about your kinks in society?
Another difficult question to answer and I can only answer from my own experiences and interpretations.
Japan, I feel, is a land of contradictions and extremities. There is a massive fetish scene and it can be seen in Literature, Manga (comic), the immense amount of love hotels and host/hostess bars etc. Whatever fetish one has or can imagine there is most certainly some kind of establishment where you can go and indulge in that particular Fetish or sexual activity.
On the other hand, in Japan there is a clear separation between the public face/mind and private face/mind (in Japanese `honne-tatemae`. There are differing concepts towards, and a strong sense of importance placed maintaining social harmony. For this reason the Fetish scene is still kept quite underground and private. It is also not uncommon that someone will choose to keep his/her fetish related activities separate and hidden from his/her husband/wife and family. For this reason there are Numerous and varied SM bars, Clubs, Fetish-related communities, Events, Hostess bars etc., found in most major cities, that provide an outlet or `space` where `private` side can be explored, discussed and satisfied.
You are also part of Cirque Shibari, what role do you play in there as a performer?
For Cirque Shibari I`ve been invited to perform as a female rigger alongside several other male riggers. As we are still in rehearsal stage at present unfortunately I can`t provide any further information.
Any favourite rigger? Model?
From all the Kinbaku shows I’ve watched, Nawashi Kanna-san`s was the most emotive and had the deepest impact on me. I hold a lot of respect for him and his rope work.
Shishiwaka-san, who taught me a lot about Kinbaku during my first couple of years. I respect and admire his work and presence as a Nawashi and performer alongside having a deep sense of gratitude towards him.
What ropes do you like to use? Any other prop you particularly enjoy?
I have only ever used Jute rope. It`s the most common rope used for Kinbaku here in Japan and it works for me. Other props….hmmm….. it depends on my mood but generally I enjoy using whips and candles when I do rope. I do needles sometimes but not so much with rope.
Note: With Kinbaku emerging as a genre internationally and furthermore with its more recent appearance in more `mainstream` arena of society there seems to be this tendency for people to refer to Kinbaku as something that is separate from BDSM. I don`t have any issue with this, however for the purpose of this interview I just wanted to state that for me Kinbaku is a form of BDSM and as such I don`t refer to the two in a separate sense.