Ukiyo-e (浮世絵 literally “pictures of the floating world” ) (Japanese pronunciation: [ukijo.e] or [ukijoꜜe]) is a genre of Japanesewoodblock prints (or woodcuts) and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and pleasure quarters. It is the main artistic genre of woodblock printing in Japan.
Usually the word ukiyo is literally translated as “floating world” in English, referring to a conception of an evanescent world, impermanent, fleeting beauty and a realm of entertainments (kabuki, courtesans, geisha) divorced from the responsibilities of the mundane, everyday world; “pictures of the floating world”, i.e. ukiyo-e, are considered a genre unto themselves.
The contemporary novelist Asai Ryōi, in his Ukiyo monogatari (浮世物語 “Tales of the Floating World”, c. 1661 ), provides some insight into the concept of the floating world: