Ukiyo-e, pictures of the floating world

… Living only for the moment, turning our full attention to the pleasures of the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms and the maple leaves; singing songs, drinking wine, diverting ourselves in just floating, floating; … refusing to be disheartened, like a gourd floating along with the river current: this is what we call the floating world… 

Asai Ryōi, Ukiyo monogatari (“Tales of the Floating World”, c. 1661)

Ukiyo-e (浮世絵 literally “pictures of the floating world”) (Japanese pronunciation: [ukijo.e] or[ukijoꜜe]) is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints (or woodcuts) and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and pleasure quarters. It is the main artistic genre of woodblock printing in Japan.
Usually the word ukiyo is literally translated as “floating world” in English, referring to a conception of an evanescent world, impermanent, fleeting beauty and a realm of entertainments (kabuki, courtesans, geisha) divorced from the responsibilities of the mundane, everyday world; “pictures of the floating world”, i.e.ukiyo-e, are considered a genre unto themselves.


The Great Wave of Kanagawa (Kanagawa-oki nami-ura, lit. “Under a Wave of Kanagawa“) c.1830.–1833.

Katsushika Hokusai, 1760.–1849.

This particular woodblock print is Hokusai’s most famous work, published sometime between 1830 and 1833 (during the Edo Period) as the first in Hokusai’s series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), and one of the most recognized works of Japanese art in the world.
It depicts an enormous wave threatening boats near the Japanese prefecture of Kanagawa. While sometimes assumed to be a tsunami, the wave is, as the picture’s title notes, more likely to be a large okinami – literally “wave of the open sea.” As in all the prints in the series, it depicts the area around Mount Fuji under particular conditions, and the mountain itself appears in the background.If you are interested in more info feel free to watch: The Great Wave (Japanese Art Documentary).