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


Return visit - Masako-san

In the morning, we dropped by the Takahasi residence to see if Taka could get some video footage of her. But she was a flurry of activity this morning, we couldn’t even get a word in edgewise to see if we could film.
When we mentioned that some of Takahashi-san’s kokeshi are more hour-glass shaped than others, she joked that he looks at her when he carves his kokeshi. When she was younger, the kokshi were more hour-glass shaped, now that she is elderly, they are more square!

There is a belief among kokeshi-makers that for the kokeshi to have the properly relaxed and calm expression, the production should be the same. So the chopping to the carving to the painting must be done in a meditative state of zen calm, then that calmness imparts itself into the kokeshi.

She remarked that sometimes she will walk into his studio, finding him gazing into the face of one of his own creations in a state of bliss.

There is one extremely rare style of kokeshi, made by only two artisans deep in the mountains of Akita. Occassionally, when someone ventures into the mountains to obtain one of these rare kokeshi, one of the makers is extremely cranky and will chase you off! You will have to return 3 or 4 days in a row until he will finally relent and sell you one of his creations.

It was a lovely visit with a lovely couple, but no video was filmed.

Masako-san’s hands were stained red because she was helping her husband paint kokeshi.

August 10, 2010

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