The Ota Memorial Museum of Art, Tokyo, is currently hosting an exhibition of Edo Period (1603-1867) ukiyo-e woodblock prints from the Museum for Art and Craft Hamburg, Germany. The museum houses one of the finest ukiyo-e collections in Europe, and has lent 237 pieces from its 5,000 piece collection, including wood- block prints, drawings and illustrated woodcuts by master artists. The collection reflects the vision of the museum’s founder, Justus Brinckmann (1843-1915), who established the space to provide the German public the opportunity to study the craftsmanship of ukiyo-e artists.

The term “ukiyo-e,” which literally means “art of the floating world,” reflects the transformation of the Buddhist belief that the world of human existence is both transitory and fleeting. What started as a religious ideology was transformed by the citizens of Edo (old Tokyo) into an aesthetic code that reveled in demonstrations of ephemeral beauty. The setting for ukiyo-e art is the world of Edoites’ indulgences, including kabuki theaters, tea houses and the entertainment district.

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