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Erotic tears: the tale of the self-styled "self-immobilization queen,
" Hiromi Saotome

Six years had elapsed since the Rope Master, Eikichi Osada, and his disciple, Ms. Hiromi Saotome, last performed together. Today's performance was symbolic in that sense. The cast of characters was also worthy of mention. Eikichi Osada is a master CM of SM shows, whose name is known throughout the SM community in Japan. His abilities to orchestrate SM shows and give them an artistic flavor, as well as his ability to tie up people in a flash, are the main reasons why he has so many fans.
Ms. Hiromi Saotome is an energetic "victim"(on the receiving end of the whip) who has starred in quite a few SM shows and movies. Coupled with Master Osada, the two make an ideal team, a SM version of a "Punch-and-Judy" show, so to speak. Hiromi also admits that her technique as a SM stage performer has been heavily influenced by her teacher, Master Osada.
Hiromi Saotome recalls that when she was in middle school, she obtained and read a copy of the SM classic Story of O, by Pauline Reage. Enthralled by the story, she resolved that one day, she would also try to be an "O."
The book also served as the impetus by which Hiromi became aware of her sadomasochistic impulses. Later on, she was to make her debut as a SM actress when she was 20. She played a role in the show "Sisters of the Rope: Bizarre Fruit," whose script was written by the stage producer Takashi Ishii. After gaining some fame as a SM actress, Hiromi went on perform various roles such as a model and a film star in various SM films and videos. Looking back on her early stages of her career, Hiromi recounts that her initial SM work was not really of the hard-core variety. It was only after performing in some shows with the AV star Genji Nakamura that she managed to get acquainted with more demanding SM stunts, such as bondage, and being suspended from mid-air.
Experiencing these antics eventually led Hiromi to conclude that hard-core SM was the only way to go. Since then, she has constantly made an effort to explore further the erotic intricacies of SM.

Since the mid-1980s, Hiromi has written numerous articles for the venerable SM-oriented magazine, "SM Sniper." This magazine, which recently released its issue number 200, features not only SM-oriented material, but also general articles related to "entertainment" (of an adult-oriented nature). Having been around ever since the passage of the Entertainment Establishments Control Law in Japan more than a generation ago, browsing through past issues of SM Sniper can be a very enlightening experience. The stories in SM Sniper which feature interviews with Hiromi bear titles such as "Interview with a Pro," "Cult AD Detective," "The Age of the Detective," "The Erotic Iron Lady." These titles bear witness to the way in which Hiromi's skills as a SM performer have evolved. But a casual glance at the titles would also lead to you believe that Hiromi's role in the evolution of SM as an art in Japan was far greater than it actually was. That having been said, the articles in SM Sniper are hardly verbose or weighty texts. It is worth quoting Hiromi directly on this point: "I didn't want SM to be seen as some arcane art accessible only to a few. I wanted everyone to understand that SM is a pleasurable activity that can be enjoyed by everyone. (From the article "SM in the Nineties," carried in the April 1996 edition of SM Sniper." In other words, SM should never degenerate into a sect-like art form that rejects newcomers.

Once hooked (literally and mentally) on the concept of bondage and aerial suspension, Hiromi began to seek ways to improve her skills as a SM performer. It was this desire to get better that led her to getting acquainted with that grand master of the rope, Eikichi Osada, who had something like 30 years of SM experience under his belt.
For three continuous years after their first meeting, Hiromi received intensive SM training under the supervision of Mr. Osada, all while continuing to perform for audiences. Her entire life soon became totally devoted to SM, handling the rope night and day. This "total immersion" experience proved to be an important step in Hiromi's eventual decision to adopt her own distinct style as a SM artist.
One bizarre but understandable product of this desire to create a masochistic world of her own making was her decision to stage shows where she would tie herself up. The sources of inspiration for this initiative were several. Mr. Osada's observation that there were very few, if any artists capable of tying themselves up AND suspending themselves from the air led her to incorporate both acts into her show. Moreover, the few artists in the past who bothered to incorporate self-tying acts into their shows, such as Sayuri Ichijyo, Hotaru, and Pia were striptease artists who had incorporated bondage into their performances as an afterthought. Hiromi resolve to incorporate both aspects of sensual eroticism and sadistic suffering into her self-immobilization act. In deference to her teacher, Master Osada, the act of tying herself up would also be done in a jiffy, and not prolonged as if it were part of a slow striptease act.

On stage, Hiromi uses a rubbery tube-like contraption and a red rope to instantly tie up her torso. Her upper body now resembles that of a tortoise. She next proceeds to clamp on a home-made bridle (fashioned from the drainage filter in her kitchen sink) and flagellate herself with a whip. More applications of the rope are next made to the shin and ankle area of one leg, and the business end of a pulley is strapped to this area. Finally, she lets go to have herself suspended from mid-air. She is stuck in the classic position for the kataashi chuzuri (being suspended in air on one leg). The pulley has been designed so that an application of 1/4 the subject's body weight will suffice to keep her levitated. Nonetheless, the whole ordeal still must be quite painful. Her legs naturally come apart in this posture. The whole spectacle of the ropes winding about the groin area is provocative. While holding up her weight with one hand, Hiromi wields a whip and candle in her other hand. This is how she proceeds to create her very own "bondage space" without the help of anyone.

The now defunct magazine Kitan Club (an SMBD-oriented journal which flourished before and after World War II) once ran a six-month series of articles on self-bondage. This alone shows that the practice enjoyed a considerable following for some time. Female striptease artists, such as the ones mentioned earlier, frequently incorporated self-immobilization into their shows. And with the passage of the Entertainment Establishments Control Law, which clamped down new restrictions on stripe shows, the popularity of the practice soared. Artists such as Ryuko Taki, Sayoko, Ichiyo Nagai, and others began incorporating self-bondage into their acts. However, among this horde of look-alikes, Hiromi Saotome's show stood out. Her lightning-fast ability to manipulate ropes, as well as the incorporation of the traditional, aesthetic aspects of Japanese bondage in her shows mark Hiromi as being the leader of the pack.
Hiromi's self-immobilization act is impressive in itself. However, she has another distinctive trick up her sleeve that puts her in a class of her own. This consists of her ability to slit her belly; i.e., perform ritual harakiri. Hiromi has refined her harakiri act to the point where it has become her trademark. One of the ultimate acts of masochism, Hiromi has managed to convert harakiri into an expression of more universal, far-ranging beauty.

Freeing herself from the ropes that keep her suspended, Hiromi next situates herself in the middle of the stage. She takes out the dagger and rubs her pasty belly with her free hand. Pulling the dagger out from the scabbard, Hiromi's smile briefly fades away, to be replaced by a more serious and dignified expression. As if in response to this change, a respectful silence falls over the crowd. After poking at her belly with the dagger, she wraps the kaishi (ceremonial thin paper) around the blade. Gripping the paper with one hand, she checks with her other hand to see where the cut will be made on her belly. She then squeezes the sword's handle with considerable strength, and directs the pointed end of the instrument to a spot at the lower left-hand side of her belly. After taking a deep breath, she plunges the business end of the instrument into her entrails. Her entire body becomes rigid, and the sword, pushed along by her left hand, traces a cut vertically across her stomach. Scarlet drops of blood come oozing out of this cut. Her face evinces a mixture of emotions; extreme agony, mixed with masochistic pleasure.

Hiromi Saotome says that she first got to know of harakiri being committed for SM purposes when she became acquainted with the Kiri no Kai (Paulownia Club), an organization made up of harakiri enthusiasts. At first, she had no intention of incorporating such an act into her skit. But a reading of Yukio Mishima's novel Yukoku (Patriotism) change her mind. She recalls that many passages of the book brought tears to her eyes, and sent a surge of energy shuddering through her body. The emotion pent up in passages of Yukoku, such as "After watching her husband commit harakiri, the lady, convinced of the righteousness of his death, quietly resolved to follow her husband," were to Hiromi, dignified responses worthy of emulation. She resolved that she would try to provoke similar emotions when carrying out harakiri. After all, for Hiromi, harakiri was merely "the practicing of pleasure in the face of death." Or in the words of the noted commentator and writer on harakiri, Hiromichi Nakayasu, "Beautiful beings die beautifully." These stoic notions of beauty are part and parcel of the act of slitting oneself.

We got to meet Hiromi briefly off stage. She was a small but nonetheless attractive girl who pronounced her words with conviction. I got the impression that she liked what she was doing very much. But in her words, I also detected the faint trace of urgency and seriousness, as if she were in a rush to get things done. The feeling that I got was that in her quest to perfect her skills as a SM artist, she had run into this God-awful thing called harakiri. Maybe I was reading too much into her account. This is not the same Hiromi that I knew earlier, the one who rattled off stories of how her relationship with Master Osada while holding a beer mug in her hand.

Hiromi lets out a groan. She is obviously in pain. After forcing her dagger all the way to her right side, she finally pulls it out of her body. The torrents of blood coming out of her body, as well as the sheer audacity of the whole act, make it clear that this is no ordinary run-of-the-mill show. The audience looks on, hushed.
Plunging the dagger into the pit of her stomach area, Hiromi next pulls the blade down to the abdomen area. Waves of pain rush through her belly, accompanied by animal-like gasps. Taking the blade out of the abdomen, she uses her last reserves of strength to administer the coup d'grace to the area around her left breast. Her gasps for breath slowly die down. Her eyes, which are partially shut, indicate that Hiromi is in a delirious state of crazed ecstasy. The tears that well from her eyes are distinctly erotic, indicating that she goes in peace to the land of Nod.



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