--------------------------------------------------- "Vanishing Point" Exhibit Dates ---------------------------------------------------

None currently scheduled.

------------------------------------------------------- Upcoming Special Events -------------------------------------------------------

None currently scheduled.


About Us

Photoji Project is: photographer Elizabeth Barbush, writer Gabriel DellaVecchia, interviewer/coordinator Makie Sugawara, interviewer/community liaison Takaharu Saito, and photographer Maki Otomo. Although we come from various backgrounds and two different countries, the five of us share a commitment to cultural sustainability and to the power of art as a tool for education and social change.

In August 2010, we spent three weeks documenting, through photographs, interviews, and audio recordings, the historically important onsen hot spring town of Naruko in the Tohoku region of Japan. We centered our explorations on the concept of toji: the traditional ritual of staying in a hot spring town for an extended period for the purposes of rejuvenation.

The original intention of the project was to exhibit our findings in Sendai, the largest city in the region, to highlight for the people there a fading cultural treasure located in their own backyard.

Then came the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11th, 2011. Over the course of one terrible, bitterly cold winter afternoon, everything in this region of the world changed.

In a strange twist of fate, fading Naruko, home to hundreds of usually empty hotel rooms, became a refuge for 1000 tsunami victims, relocated there by the prefectural government. The ritual of toji, staying in an onsen town for an extended period in order to heal, has taken on an entirely new meaning.

Photoji Project returned to Naruko in May and June 2011, nearly one year after our original visit, to document how a place that was written off has now become safe haven for hundreds of families.

We are currently planning to share our exhibit "Vanishing Point" at two locations in California: first at the Little Tokyo Koban and Visitors' Center in Los Angeles (August 2011) and then at Elsewhere Gallery in the Bay Area (September 2011), during which we hope to raise money for the struggling businesses and tsunami refugees in Naruko.

Please share this blog and help us spread the word about this overlooked corner of Japan.

Photoji Project(フォトージ・プロジェクト)は、写真担当のエリザベス・バーブッシュ、ライターのガブリエル・デラベキア、取材/コーディネーターの菅原牧枝、取材/コミュニティ・リエゾンの齋藤高晴、写真担当の大友眞妃からなるプロジェクトです。
2010年秋に、鳴子温泉駅での写真展「The Future of Tradition」を開催。
2011年夏には、ロサンゼルスとサンフランシスコで写真展「Vanishing Point」を開催予定です。


Asahi Art Festival in Higashi-Naruko: The sound of four kids laughing

During our stay in Naruko, we will be staying at both Ryokan Ohnuma and Ryokan Kanshichiyu. For the past five years, both inns have been participating in the Asahi Art Festival, an annual program wherein Asahi Beer gives about 20 community arts groups throughout Japan a small grant and promotion for their efforts. The push of the festival is to get art out of the galleries and out to everyday people, a mission we can truly get behind.

This year, the Naruko AAF project is called 1000 Toji and it is an attempt to recognize the one thousand years that toji culture has existed in Japan and  is an effort to help it exist for another thousand. Again, a mission that dovetails with what we are trying to accomplish with the "Vanishing Point" project.

In the boom days of the 1950s, Kanshichiyu was busy enough to open an annex building. But, with the number of guests falling year after year, the annex was shuttered five years ago. Last year, new life was briefly breathed into the building during the AAF event when it was used as an art gallery. Today, the annex is home to a 1000 Toji event called "Childrens' Ryokan."

This year, the whole building has been transformed into a playground for kids. Inside are onsen baths full of packing peanuts, a Collector's Room with both a stuffed cobra AND a spaceship made of bottles, a room with a racetrack for battery-powered cars, a small library... on and on.

It looks like lots of fun, but only four kids are running around. They seem to be enjoying themselves, and it is only the first day of the project, but it doesn't look like the next one thousand years of toji culture. It looks more like a daycare center gone to seed.

But it is heartwarming to hear the laughter of children echoing in the normally empty halls. Two days into our stay in Naruko, and we are already realizing that the median age of the people we are seeing on the streets seems to be about 70.

Where are all the young people?

August 1, 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment