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

None currently scheduled.

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


None currently scheduled.

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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。
出身国も経歴も異なるメンバーに共通しているのは、教育や社会問題解決手段としてのアートの可能性や、文化の持続可能性に強く関心を持っていること。湯治文化の残る宮城県大崎市鳴子温泉で、湯治旅館やこけし職人等、30名以上の方々に写真撮影とインタビューを行ってきました。
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。

Saturday

The Prophet of Slow Food

We journey by rickety bus to the mountain village of Onikoube, the "one of these is not like the other" part of Naruko.

Our destination is Yamagakko (“Mountain School”) Community Center. A former JHS built in the 1930s and closed due to low enrollment about 5 years ago, the building was resurrected as a community center shortly thereafter. The center has gained traction this year with the addition of a dozen staff members, hired with money from a government grant.

One of those new hires is Kimura-san. A former organic pizza chef, she has transformed a former science lab into the lair of a mad food scientist, still somewhat recognizable as a place where kids once dissected frogs, but now decorated with baskets of vegetables and bunches of drying herbs.

After urging us to sit down, she busies herself with preparing a meal for us. She is a ball of energy as she bustles from one end of the room to the other, pulling a near gourmet meal out of thin air. We’d look one way, and there’d be a bowl of pesto spaghetti, then another blur and suddenly there would be freshly baked bread in front of us.

Kimura-san's job is to interact with the locals in an ongoing exchange of ideas. She has no set job description, so she focuses on teaching cooking because that is her passion. In return, it is part of her task to learn things from the local people. Currently, she is learning to make rice balls wrapped in a bamboo leaf, a very ancient style. The rice inside stays good for about a week with no refrigeration or preservatives, as the bamboo leaf has anti-bacterial properties. The wrapper is biodegradable, so no waste. She proudly declares that, although they look old-fashioned, they are actually the food of the future.

August 4, 2010

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