Edo (literally, "bay entrance") was a small fishing village when Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) established his shogunal headquarters there in 1603. By the 1720s, it had grown into one of the world's largest cities, with a population of over a million. In 1868 it was renamed Tokyo. Edo occupied about a third of today's sprawling metropolis.
Shops and businesses, including restaurants and popular theaters, flourished under the patronage of a burgeoning well-to-do middle class whose daily activities contributed to the hustle and bustle of a lively downtown area. The city's outskirts, separated from the urban center by rivers and canals, retained their rural character. Consequently, Edoites regularly enjoyed seasonal outings and flower viewing without traveling very far. Various festivals held in neighborhood shrines and temples to mark the seasons attracted throngs of visitors.
The prints in this exhibition, designed by three popular artists active between the late 18th century and the mid-19th, show crowds, street life, and seasonal activities in the vibrant city of Edo.