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


Field Trip For Foreigners

In an attempt at reigniting interest in Naruko, Ohnuma-san from Ryokan Ohnuma has been brainstorming ideas to introduce the concepts of toji to a new audience. In his thinking, Japanese workers are no longer able to take the month-long vacations that their fisherman and farmer ancestors were able to take. So, who gets to have 2 or 3 weeks of vacation time?


So, Taka and I recruit five friends from Sendai for the first ever Naruko Bus Tour.

Along for the ride is Makie Sugawara, the newest addition to our project. Makie works for an organization called Yururu that supports NPOs and volunteer organizations throughout Miyagi prefecture. As part of her job, she often interviews NPO staff for articles in her organization's monthly magazine. She has joined our group to help schedule and conduct interviews. This is her first trip to Naruko as part of the project.

The bus tour hits many of the same stops as our trip back in snowy March: Katanuma Lake (now a lovely emerald green), Miyamoto's Beatles-themed coffee shop, Big Star for dinner, and a soak in the baths at Ryokan Ohnuma.

The highlight of the day is a performance of Oba-san's award-winning "Symphony for Frogs" - the music broadcast on speakers in a field surrounded by the small amphibians that inspired the piece in the first place.

June 26, 2010

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! I am think the idea of introducing Toji to both foreigners and younger people is an important thing. Let me know more about this. I would be happy to participate in the process.

    My name is Buck and I live in small town in Hokkaido, but travel around Japan a bit visiting onsen and exploring new places. My email is buckatpcc@gmail.com

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Take care,