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


Legends of the Lake

We have a few stories about Katanuma Lake, a volcanic crater in the mountains and one of the most famous natural landmarks in the area.

Katayama Mountain exploded in the year 835, sending rocks all over town. The ground shook for 17 days. One landed a few miles from the crater site, so the locals built a shrinethere to appease the god of the lake. From that time, the ground has bubbled with hot springs and the mountain has not exploded again.

The waters of the lake are famous for changing color on a daily basis. I personally have seen the lake three times… in March, the valley was covered in unbroken snow, so a perfect ring of white, a flawless blue sky, and the lake was an incredible turquoise. In July, the lake was green, reflecting the trees… it looks like a normal lake at that point, nothing unusual.

We have heard two legends surrounding the lake:

The first is that there is a dragon living in the center of the lake. I do not know when he emerges.

But Seiyu-san told us an alternate story, that his grandmother told him of a princess that appeared in the center of the lake between December and March. If you went to the lake and saw the princess, you would die within a week. So, that was an effective deterrent to keep curious young children away from the possibly thin ice of the lake during the winter.

He now has a suspicion that his grandmother made the story up to keep him away from the lake, and that if she had told him the same story as a teenager, he probably would have gone TO the lake to see the princess.
I told him it was ironic that I first laid eyes on the lake in March, when it was at its most stunning, but I am glad I didn’t see the princess, because dying a week after the first scouting trip would have been a terrible way to start the project!

August 12, 2010

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