"Floating world" redirects here. For the album by Anathallo, see Floating World (album).

Ukiyo (Japanese: 浮世 "Floating World") described the urban lifestyle, especially the pleasure-seeking aspects, of Edo-period Japan (1600–1867). The "Floating World" culture developed in Yoshiwara, the licensed red-light district of Edo (modern Tokyo), which was the site of many brothels, chashitsu tea houses, and kabuki theaters frequented by Japan's growing middle class. The ukiyo culture also arose in other cities such as Osaka and Kyoto. The famous Japanese woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e, or "pictures of the Floating World", had their origins in these districts and often depicted scenes of the Floating World itself such as geisha, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, samurai, chōnin and prostitutes.

The term is also an ironic allusion to the homophone "Sorrowful World" (憂き世), the earthly plane of death and rebirth from which Buddhists sought release.


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  • 20 October 1600: Tokugawa Ieyasu gained ascendancy of all Japan after winning the Battle of Sekigahara.
  • 1603: Tokugawa Ieyasu granted title of shogun from Emperor Go-Yozei of Japan and established the Edo Period and Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo, Japan.
  • 1603: Izumo no Okuni began dancing Kabuki in the dry riverbeds of Kyoto. It was initially an all-female undertaking.
  • 1605: Tokugawa Ieyasu abdicated his official position as shogun to his son and heir, Tokugawa Hidetada. Ieyasu remained in control of Japan as the Cloistered Shogun or Ogosho (大御所).
  • 1616: Ogosho Ieyasu died at age 75. He is succeeded by his son, Tokugawa Hidetada.
  • 1617: Tokugawa Hidetada restricted prostitution in Edo to the Yoshiwara district.
  • 1623: Hidetada resigned the government to his eldest son and heir, Tokugawa Iemitsu. Hidetada remained in control of Japan as the Cloistered Shogun or Ogosho (大御所).
  • 1623–1632: Ogosho Hidetada enacted anti-Christian policies.
  • 1624–1644: Shinmachi (新町) was established as a restricted courtesan's district in Osaka.
  • 1629: Women were banned from appearing in kabuki performances.
  • 1632: Ogosho Hidetada died at age 53. He was succeeded by his son, Tokugawa Iemitsu.
  • 1633-1639: Tokugawa Iemitsu issued a number of edicts and policies relating to kaikin (海禁, "maritime restrictions"), which restricted contact with the outside world. These were later known as Sakoku (鎖国, "country in chains" or "lock up of country"). In-coming trade was restricted to Dutch and Chinese traders, while out-going trade was restricted to Ryūkyū Kingdom and Korea. In addition, all foreign books were banned (until 1720).[1]
  • 1635: As part of the Kaikin, the Japanese people were forbidden to travel abroad and those who were already abroad were not permitted to come home.[2]
  • 1635: Sankin kōtai (already an established custom) was enacted into law. The daimyo of every Han moved periodically between Edo and his han, typically spending alternate years in each place. His wife and heir were required to remain in Edo as hostages.
  • 1640: Prostitution in Kyōto was restricted to the Shimabara district.
  • 8 June 1651: Shogun Iemitsu died at age 47. He was succeeded by his son, Tokugawa Ietsuna. As Ietsuna was only 10 years old, he had five regents to rule in his name.
  • 1652: Young male actors were banned from appearing in kabuki performances.
  • 1657: Great Fire of Meireki destroys much of Edo. In the following years, Edo is rebuilt with wider streets and some districts reorganised.
  • 1663: Regency period officially ends, although the regents continue as advisers to the Shogun Ietsuna.
  • 1663: Shogun Ietsuna outlaws the practice of Junshi (vassals committing seppuku (ritual suicide) upon the death of their lord).
  • 4 June 1680: Shogun Ietsuna died at age 39. He was succeeded by his younger brother, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.
  • 1682 Shogun Tsunayoshi introduces morality and sumptuary laws. Prostitution was banned, waitresses could not be employed in tea houses, and rare and expensive fabrics were banned.
  • 1687 Shogun Tsunayoshi issued the Shorui Awaremi no Rei, an order prohibiting the killing of animals and establishing an administrator of animal protection. This, and other similar orders, earned him the nickname "Dog Shogun".[3]
  • 21 April 1701: Asano Naganori, the daimyo of Akō han, can no longer bear the insults of Kira Yoshinaka and struck him in Edo Castle. He was ordered to commit seppuku, while Kira went unpunished.
  • 14 December 1702: Early in the morning in a driving wind during a heavy fall of snow, the forty-seven ronin of Asano Naganori attacked Kira Yoshinaka's mansion and killed him to avenge their master. All but one of them then commit seppuku. Their story goes on to become a famous legend that influenced many plays and stories of the era.
  • 1705: Shogun Tsunayoshi dissolved the rich Yodoya merchant house, confiscating its wealth.
  • 1706: Edo was hit by a typhoon.
  • 1707: Mt. Fuji erupted.
  • 19 February 1709: Shogun Tsunayoshi died at the age of 62. He was succeeded by his nephew, Tokugawa Ienobu, the son of his other brother, Tokugawa Tsunashige.
  • 1710: Early in his reign, Shogun Ienobu reversed some of the laws of his predecessor. He also relaxed the rules on censorship.
  • 1711: Through a series of mediated discussions, relations improved between the Shogunate and Emperor Nakamikado.
  • 12 November 1712: Shogun Ienobu died at the age of 51. He was succeeded by his son, Tokugawa Ietsugu. As his son was only three years old at the time, he was placed under the protection and advice of Confucian scholar Arai Hakuseki.
  • 1716: Metal currency was introduced, replacing the rice standard. Rules on foreign contact were relaxed slightly.
  • 19 June 1716: Shogun Ienobu died at the age of seven. The new shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune, was chosen from one of the lineal Tokugawa branches.
  • 1716: Shogun Ienobu introduced financial reforms, the Kyōhō reforms.
  • 1720: The ban on foreign books was relaxed, with Chinese and Dutch books being imported.
  • 1745: Shogun Yoshimune retired in favour of his oldest son, Tokugawa Ieshige.
  • 1748: The first adaptation of the story of the forty-seven Ronin, the Kanadehon Chūshingura (仮名手本忠臣蔵), appeared as a puppet show and Kabuki play.
  • 1790: As part of the Kansei Reforms, censor seals were required on all commercial single-sheet prints.[4]
  • 1791: As a result of the Kansei Reforms, the artist Santō Kyōden and his publisher Tsutaya Jūzaburō were prosecuted for publishing three sharebon ("books of wit and fashion") set in the Yoshiwara district.[5]
  • 1842: As a result of the Tenpō reforms, Ichikawa Danjûrô VII was banished from Edo because of his extravagant lifestyle and ostentatious stage productions. He used genuine samurai weapons and armor on the stage rather than the usual military stage props.[5]
  • July 1853: Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry entered Edo Bay with four American war ships, and demanded that Japan end their policy of seclusion.
  • 31 March 1854: At the Convention of Kanagawa, Perry forced the Shogun to sign the "Treaty of Peace and Amity", allowing trade with America.
  • February 1855, Japan signed the Treaty of Shimoda, allowing trade with Russia.
  • 1855-1860, Japan signed similar trading treaties with other western countries.
  • January 3, 1868 - Meiji Emperor declared "Meiji Restoration", ending the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Edo period.


  1. Edo Period (1603 - 1867) by
  2. Edo Period Japan: 250 Years of Peace by Meg vanSteenburgh, 2006
  3. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi,
  4. Viewing Japanese Prints: How do we interpret inscriptions and seals? by John Fiorillo.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Viewing Japanese Prints: FAQ: What were sumptuary edicts? by John Fiorillo.

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