The 18th century was an exciting time for Japan. After unification in 1603, a remarkable spirit of innovation pervaded as urban centers grew and the arts flourished.

The creativity came despite a policy of sakoku that the ruling Tokugawa shogunate enacted in 1633 to close Japan off from the world (it lasted until 1866). However, sakoku resulted in the paradoxical effect of nurturing a deep fascination for everything foreign among the country's educated class.

It was in this environment that Maruyama Okyo (1733-95) was born.