Ukiyo-e and its Place in Japan: Background information when reading The Garden of Evening Mists

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The Garden of Evening Mists

By Tan Twan Eng

The Garden of Evening Mists
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  • Paperback: Sep 2012,
    352 pages.

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Beyond the Book:
Ukiyo-e and its Place in Japan

The Japanese gardener Nakamura Aritomo in The Garden of Evening Mists is an accomplished ukiyo-e artist. This art form, like most others, was a product of time and place but ukiyo-e was especially so.

Hundreds of years ago (1615-1868) the Tokugawa shoguns ruled Japan according to a strict class-based, hierarchical society. They made Tokyo (then known as Edo) their capital and the city grew to be a thriving and vibrant one. The Tokugawa placed warriors such as themselves first, followed by farmers, artisans and merchants. The artisans and merchants were considered lower classes and were subject to severely repressive laws that governed how they dressed and lived. The shoguns understood, however, that the merchant class was a particularly thriving one and that the lower classes would need some kind of escape to prevent unrest from fomenting against established order. This "escape" took the form of a vibrant theater and brothel district in Edo, a "floating world" that catered to the ...

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