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


Vegetable Stand - Farmers' Wives

After chatting with Gotou-san, as he drove us back down the mountain, we stopped at a vegetable stand. As one of his many duties and projects, in addition to being a government official, a rice farmer, a traditional dancer, and a talented amateur singer, Gotou-san also helped found this vegetable stand, as it was his idea. Started 12 years ago, it is staffed entirely by women, 16 of them, who run it cooperatively. They raise their own vegetables or make their own crafts, bring them to the stand, and all sell them together, taking turns who staffs the shop. Their youngest member is actually a Korean woman, the wife of a local farmer, and she is 38. The oldest are in their 80s.

They were very happy to point out that business has increased every year, with the exception of this one. It has been an especially hot summer, which has both affected the crops and also the amount of traffic. They have about 30 visitors a day. They sell from late-May until November. The rest of the year is too snowy, so snowy in fact, that a curtain isn’t enough to keep the snow out. They build a wooden cocoon to protect the stand through the winter, like a suit of armor, and they dismantle it in the spring.

They sell a wide array of fruits and vegetables. They take pride in the foods being very fresh, locally sourced, and reasonably priced (as there is no middle man). The two women working that afternoon were kind enough to serve us an impromptu lunch, which was delicious. It was heartening to see a project which, although only a microenterprise, was able to report increasing business and to see a successful project in Onikoube.

August 8, 2010

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