Kabuki, literally ‘extraordinary thing’, with connotations of the degenerate or the unorthodox, emerged as a popular theatre of Japan in the early seventeenth century.
Fantasy is combined with humour in The eight canine heroes of the house of Satomi, c.1851–53, by Kunisada . It is based on a kabuki play that was inspired by a novel written by Takizawa Bakin (1767–1848) and published in parts between 1814 and 1841.
During the Tempo Reforms of 1842, the government strictly enforced laws for the control of actors, confining them to their assigned quarters. When they did go out of their quarters, they were required to hide their faces by wearing woven hats made of sedge grass, the same type of hat worn by outcasts and by criminals under arrest. Ukiyo actor and courtesan prints were banned at this time. In theatrical prints this restriction was soon circumvented in a variety of ingenious ways. From 1842 to 1862, actors’ names no longer appeared on the prints.
Landscape prints first came into vogue in the 1820s, with the lifting of travel restrictions so that it became easier to obtain permits to travel within Japan. This led to a demand for mementoes of journeys, and landscape prints became a novelty for travellers and armchair travellers. The banning of actor and courtesan prints from 1842 also had an impact on the popular demand for travel prints.