--------------------------------------------------- "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 New Generation – Takahashi Kamu-chan

We also chatted for a bit with Seiyu-san’s 15-year-old daughter, Kamu-chan, the only child we spoke to
during our interviews (and practically the only child we saw all month).

She went through JHS in Naruko and is now in high school in Furukawa. Every day, she takes the train for about 40 minutes, then rides a bike for another 10-15 minutes to get to school, both there and back. There is no high school in Naruko. Her JHS class had about 70 students, mostly because Osaki City (of which Naruko is a part), used to have 3 junior high schools, but has consolidated them into one.

Her group of friends was about 9 girls. They all attend different high schools, but they do try to hang out. Their favorite place to hang out is the nearby Naruko Gotenyu JR train station ( a place built for people to spend time in). They will spend many hours there. They also go down by the river and do silly things like make face shapes with their shadows, which they then take pictures of with their cellphones. Very simple, innocent games.

There was an ALT in the area, who used to spend time talking with her. Personally, it was nice to hear that an ALT used to hang out with a local student outside of class.

She really does love Higashi-Naruko, and even though she now visits the “big city” of Furukawa, she does like coming back home.

August 15, 2010

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