If you are passionate about your beliefs and if you live long enough, you, too, can be like Ishiguro's Masuji Ono: Cast adrift by the next generation, who reacts to your past triumphs with embarrassed silence.
The beliefs about which Ono was most passionate, however, revolve around his advocacy of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere of the military clique that invaded Pearl Harbor. As an art advisor to the government, he turns in his most talented pupil Kuroda to the police, who torture him before releasing him. For most of the book, Ishiguro delicately reveals in minute increments the truth about Ono's involvement in the past regime and its effect on his life.
What begins as irony softens as the novel comes to an end and we finally discover the worst is over. Ono has survived. Many of his friends have not. "Ripeness is all." The floating world of the title refers to the sweet life of bars and geishas as shown by such Japanese painters as Utamaro, but here also takes on another meaning. Whether one had followed Hitler or Pinochet or Franco or Tojo, the world is full of survivors who floated through their lives taking on the coloration of their milieu.
Ishiguro paints with delicate strokes, but there is congealed blood on his palette.