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“Edo” is not only the name of a city, now Tokyo; it is also an era, 1615-1868, one during which Japan was governed by some 15 generations of a single clan, the Tokugawas. Like “Rome,” the term refers to both a place and a time, and its influence can be variously assessed.

The period is usually viewed as a Pax Japanicus. Despite the “rigid hierarchical organization of society, . . . the political stability of the period enabled a vibrant popular culture to develop.” The quote is from the foreword by Earl Powell III, director of Washington’s National Gallery of Art, which hosted the comprehensive exhibition of Edo art of which this publication is the catalog.

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