Sono, Students to Help Recreate Edo in New York City

Edo poster

Reiko Sono of the department of languages, literatures, and cultures, along with four students from UMass Amherst and one from Mount Holyoke College, will assist in bringing the 18th-century capital of Japan to a street festival on Sunday, Oct. 22 on the Upper West Side of New York City.

The festival runs from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Broadway between 92nd and 94th streets, and one of its themes is Edo, the former capital of Japan now known as Tokyo. The students have created information boards to display about everyday life in the city, and during the festival they will don kimono and demonstrate calligraphy as well as answer questions about Edo.

The collaboration began in the spring when Japan Fes Inc.—the organizers of the festival—contacted Sono. Although Japan Fes had been hosting street festivals throughout New York City for several years, it had never done one with an Edo theme. The city of Edo was the foundation upon which Tokyo, and by extension modern Japan, were built, and its distinct urban culture offers perspectives that can benefit all city dwellers today. The organizers consulted Sono because one of the members remembered the Edo Fair she organized on campus in 2007.

In Sono’s class, Japanese 397N: Recreating Edo in NYC, which was designed to support the festival, students Catherine Decker, Amy Vieira, Patrick Carland and Xav Svetlichny from UMass Amherst and Alissa Marcello from Mount Holyoke have been studying the society and culture of Edo. In making information boards for the festival, the students sought to go beyond the common images of “samurai” and “geisha” to shed light on the more realistic existential aspects of the city.

After the festival, the information boards and decorations will be on exhibit for one month at the New York Professional Outreach Program Gallery, 526 W. 26th Street, Suite 314, in the Chelsea neighborhood.

This activity is made possible through funding from the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, the department of languages, literatures, and cultures, the program of East Asian languages and cultures, and a Five College Innovative Language Teaching Grant.