Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Saturday, February 24

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« It's a Dark Fairy Tale in Sideshow Theatre's The Golden Dragon Preview: Buzzer's Eric Lynch Gives Gapers Block a Sneak Peek »

Photography Mon Jan 27 2014

Photo Exhibition Documents Japan Pre-Disaster

Tohoku, the northern part of Japan's main island, is home to some of Japan's most striking natural wonders and archeological sites dating back to the country's first settlers during the Jomon period (ca. 10,500-300 B.C.). Far from the robust and glamorous temptations of Tokyo, many of this region's lively festivals pay tribute to these roots.

One moment three years ago, however, changed this region's legacy forever. The March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster destroyed several coastal towns and forever linked the name Tohoku with the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Though some normalcy has returned to the damaged areas, the ensuing nuclear crises continues to displace many in Fukushima, and the rural areas of this area may never regain an economic base. In some towns, suicide rates have spiked dramatically and those who have not left for the big cities struggle to find jobs.

These disasters, however, are not how curator Kotaro Iizawa wants people to remember this region. His exhibit, Tohoku: Through the Eyes of Japanese Photographers, consists of a collection of photos taken in Tohoku before the earthquake. The exhibit, free to the public, runs through Feb. 7 at the Japan Information Center at the Consulate General of Japan, 737 N. Michigan Ave.

Tohoku: Through the Eyes of Japanese Photographers

A native of Sendai, Iizawa's family narrowly escaped the tsunami by one kilometer. At the time of the earthquake, he was hundreds of miles away in Tokyo, but he feared for his mother and sisters who lived near the ocean. He did not know of their safety for three days.

"I couldn't sleep," Iizawa said during a recent visit to Chicago, where he introduced the exhibit. "I was shocked. My feeling and thinking has been changed by the earthquake."

Nearly 20,000 people lost their lives that afternoon. Yet as one instant tore apart the eastern part of this region, Iizawa hopes to show people what Tohoku was like before these disasters. Often considered off the beaten path for tourists and even Japanese people, Tohoku is home to some of Japan's most stunning nature. Many of the photos focus on this beauty as well as the region's spirited festivals and simplicity of daily life decades ago. Only one of the photographs included in the collection was taken after the tsunami.

Kotaro Iizawa
Kotaro Iizawa

"I wanted to show the roots of the Tohoku region, what's hidden and what is behind these cultural festivals," Iizawa says. "We can find many other grieving pictures elsewhere, so I wanted to avoid that and do something different."

Assembled in only three months, the exhibit showcases the work of nine photographers from Tohoku and other parts of Japan, as well as pictures from a group of photographers. This mix was intentional so as to view the region through different lenses. Iizawa explains that one Japanese photographer who visited the area was so impressed with the region that he proclaimed afterwards that Tohoku changed his life forever.

As Iizawa walks around the exhibit, he stops at a picture of a man wearing traditional Japanese festival garments. In the picture, the man looks directly at the camera with a stern gaze.

"He has a very typical Tohoku face," Iizawa says. "Strong but gentle."

Stopping at another photograph, Iizawa points to a young girl with a traditional Japanese haircut (shaved bottom and full top, similar to a "mushroom cut") from 1959. In the photo, she and her sibling are bowing in front of a country home with thatched doors, playing an innocent game of house.

It's a simple gesture, but it's how Iizawa thinks of his hometown.

"I hope this photo exhibit brings people to visit Japan or Tohoku. It's a lovely place to visit. It's pretty cold like Chicago but in the springtime, there are cherry blossoms. The area is very good for hot springs, so please come and visit."

Note: Ayako Yamada, vice consul at the Consulate, helped translate Iizawa's quotes for me during the interview.

GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


An Angry White Guy
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Devening Projects
DIY Film
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Mess Hall
Neoteric Art
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
The Seen
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store



A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.

About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop,
A/C staff inbox:



A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15