S. N. Johnson-Roehr at JSTOR Daily:
A major exhibition on the art and influence of Japanese printmaker Katsushika Hokusai recently opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Hokusai’s Great Wave is possibly the most recognized woodblock print on Earth, but as a digital collection from nearby Boston College demonstrates, many of Hokusai’s predecessors and contemporaries were skilled in the design and production of woodblock prints, or ukiyo-e, as well.
Ukiyo-e translates literally as “picture(s) of the floating world.” Ukiyo, the “floating world,” was originally “a Buddhist concept of the transitory, insubstantial nature of human existence,” explains art historian Donald Jenkins. But by the Tokugawa (Edo) period (1615–1868), the phrase evoked “the pleasures of human life, especially those associated with the brothel districts and the amusement quarters, even while some remnants of its earlier connotations remained.”