The Edo Era was a period of peace and prosperity in Japan from 1603 to 1868 under the rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which consolidated control over a unified Japan and provided political stability. Daimyo, or great feudal lords, were vassals of the Shogun, and in turn had their own armies of samurai serving them.
Arts and culture flourished during the Edo era, with new urban populations enjoying leisure time spent in the pursuit of pleasure. The term ukiyo (floating world) described this lifestyle, so named for its fleeting or transient quality. Woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) became popular, depicting courtesans, samurai, kabuki actors, and geisha. Other genres included landscapes, kacho-e (birds and flowers pictures) and bijin (beautiful women). Famous Edo era woodblock print artists include Utamaro, Hokusai, Hiroshige, Kunisada, and Kuniyoshi.
During this time, woodblock prints evolved from simple black outlines to the addition of a few colors, and finally to full color designs called nishiki-e or brocade pictures. These beautiful designs bring the world of the Edo era to life.