Sōtatsu lived in an era of profound social change. The warrior class led by the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616) and his descendants assumed political power in the early seventeenth century and, for the first time, permitted the spread of previously privileged knowledge. Classical literature and its interpretations and visual representations, once restricted to the aristocracy, gradually became available to a wider audience. Ancient narratives, such as Tales of Ise and Tale of Genji, were codified, and a standardized set of images—depicting key moments in the narrative plots—created a common pool for the public imagination. Sōtatsu was a singular force in devising those canonical images, and his folding fans served as portable image quotations from the past. Assertions of sophistication and learning but separated from their contexts, these snippets floated across many social boundaries. Association with a deep cultural past, even in fragments, was important to ambitious members of the new social order.