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


Onsen 2.0 - Yoshida Syuu-san

Another subject discovered in the Naruko free paper.

Kawatabi is the middle ground between the large hotels of Naruko and the shabbiness of Higashi-Naruko. The ryokan here are in the 10-room range, but tend to be a little more expensive.

At this in, the young man was living in Tokyo, working for a large electronics manufacturer. After getting married, his wife (although not from Naruko) suggested they take over the family business. So, while his parents are still alive, he has taken control of the family business while still in his 20s.

Importing ideas from the big city, the ryokan not only has a website, but he is also a Twitter user. He has
installed a computer in the lobby, and on the day we were visiting, he had received hubs to wire the until property for wi-fi.

He tends to get younger guests, who have heard about the place online.

The rooms are in fantastic shape. His mother, a wise manager, designs all the rooms. Rather than wait for the whole place to get shabby and to renovate all at once, they try to overhaul two rooms every year, so the cost is spread out.

They have two very large rooms on the ground floor, which used to be toji rooms. But they get so few toji customers there days, they tore out the kitchens and added a sitting room.

They have two distinct sources for their hot springs, so they rotate daily which bath is for men and which one is for women.

August 16, 2010

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