the Edo period, Japan was known for its conservative
military government, which worked hard to provide the people
with a place and time of peace.
However, as a means of keeping the peace, the people
were broken down into four distinct groups, which included
in order of importance, warriors, farmers, artisans, and
finally, merchants. In
fact, cities were provided with walled-in areas specifically
for running theaters, teahouses, and brothels, quite a mix.
era also brought about some newly wealthy civilians, which
were comprised primarily of artisans and merchants, better
known in Japan as Chonin.
Over time, this group of people began to gain
strength economically, and soon was so powerful that they
actually had power in the creation of “pleasure
quarters” located within the various entertainment
in mind that these pleasure quarters along with
entertainment had a dramatic effect on the Edo period.
For instance, women, visitors, and actors going into
these districts were cause for celebration.
With woodblock prints, paintings, and novellas in the
prime, these people made great subjects to capture.
In fact, in many ways, the pleasure quarters and
entertainment districts were glorified.
By expressing the details in woodblock print,
painters and printmakers were able to make money, simply by
depicting images of Kabuki actors, well-known romantic
getaways, and of course, seductive patrons, especially
that Kabuki actors wore colorful and elaborate costumes,
they made an obvious choice for painters.
Taking the heavy makeup and bringing the actors alive
in relation to legends, traditions, classical stories, and
historical events, were something that grew in popularity
among the people of Japan.
In addition, beautiful and erotic women also captured
the imagination and creativity of the painters in which for
the first time, the artisans were able to take everyday
people and life and make a good living on it.
of the work seen in the Edo Period was in the Ukiyo-e style,
which represented a final phase in the long transition of
Japanese painting. Remember,
while early painting and drawing focused more on people,
painters using the Ukiyo-e style maintained focus on
landscapes and scenery.
However, soon painters took another interest in the
form of indoor life. During the 17th century, one of the most cherished
subjects remained houses of pleasure.
While many places were painted, one in particular
stayed the most prominent, the Yoshiwara quarter of Edo.
Then during the Kanbun era, which began in 1661 and
lasted until 1671, seductive courtesans and female actors of
Yoshiwara were sought after for individual portraits.
some reason, the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter featuring actors
and courtesans appealed to the majority of consumers,
specifically when made into affordable woodblock prints.
However, early versions of woodblock prints featured
only things such as Buddha and Buddhist texts.
Then by the 18th century, this changed in
which depictions of actors and courtesans were most popular.
By 1765, technology changed, now making it possible
to create single sheet prints using a wide variety of
while Yoshiwara pleasure quarter prints were in high demand
for quite some time, a decline began during the latter part
of the 18th century.