--------------------------------------------------- "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。


The Classical Composer

We start the day talking with Oba-san, the wife of the owner of Ryokan Ohnuma and a contemporary classical composer. She has written music to be played while sake ferments as well as a symphony for frogs, which in my mind is more fun than the kind of classical music played for old ladies in pearls in halls that smell of Chanel No. 5.

We visit her in a former shed, almost under the JR tracks. The room is mostly empty. Other than the dirt floor, the walls have been painted an immaculate white. A large very minimalist shelf stands behind a desk, the shelf covered in spotless glasses and plates. A projector is playing looped scenes of Naruko and Oba-san's music tinkles in the background. The room is an impromptu café, a free space, to sit around with your thoughts while drinking fresh blueberry juice.

There she sits, surrounded by stark white walls and a dirt floor, like an artistic monk. The room is her contribution to the 5th edition of the Asahi Arts Fest in Naruko. It turns out that SIX years ago, Oba-san was involved in a different AAF project. While at that year's kick-off party, she met her future husband promoting his 2006 project. While therefore a meaningful event for the newly-married couple, we asked her why they keep at it, since attendance has not increased in the five years they have been working on the AAF events in Naruko together.

During her life in Tokyo, Oba-san was frustrated that whenever she mounted a performance of one of her pieces, it was always the same audience. It felt stifling and far from the reasons she started to compose. When she mounted her first performance in Naruko, the audience was no bigger than in Tokyo, but for them it was perhaps the first performance they had ever seen. The music was something special for them, and consequently, the music again felt special to Oba-san as well.

August 3, 2010

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