During the summer of 2010, the members of Photoji Project spent three weeks documenting, through photographs and interviews, the historically important onsen hot spring town of Naruko in the Tohoku region of Northern Japan. They focused their explorations on the concept of toji - a traditional method of healing by bathing in the medicinal waters of the hot springs multiple times a day over the course of a number of weeks.
Then came the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11th, 2011. Over the course of one terrible, bitterly cold winter afternoon, everything in northern Japan 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, took on an entirely new meaning.
Photoji Project returned to Naruko in May and June 2011, nearly one year after their original visit, to document how a place that was written off has now become safe haven for hundreds of families. They will share these stories in Los Angeles in an exhibit entitled "Vanishing Point." The exhibit will take place at the Little Tokyo Koban and Visitors' Center in Los Angeles at 307 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 from August 12 - 21 from 9am – 6pm daily. The exhibit coincides with Nisei Week, the largest Japanese-American Festival in the US. There will also be a reception and artist talk on Saturday August 20 at 5:30pm. Admission for the exhibit and event is free but donations are deeply appreciated.
Photoji photographer Gabe DellaVecchia notes, “The people of rural Japan were already facing steep challenges before the disasters, and now with added hurdles, we want to ensure their efforts towards recovery are seen as broadly as the images of destruction. In the case of Naruko, we now see that sometimes progress means going back to what worked before. At the exhibit and event we will be collecting donations, selling prints, and holding silent auctions to raise funds for the Naruko community. We are looking forward to seeing you at the exhibit!”