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Imagine a universe of wit, stylishness, and extravagance—with overtones of naughtiness, hedonism, and transgression. Implicit was a contrast to the humdrum of everyday obligation. The floating world began in the Oriental heartland, migrated eastward, and came to full flower in the Imperial Court, where its main venues were popular Kabuki theaters and red-light districts. Each offered an array of rich sensory experiences to the fraction of the populace able to partake of them directly. The floating world also afforded vicarious pleasure to countless others throughout the Oriental Lands.

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