Our Staff Share their Stories


These are the stories our staff shared in 2012/2013 as they recalled how the 2011 earthquake and tsunami affected their lives.

Chieko N.   (Jewelry Artisan)

I was home when the earthquake hit.  I went to my two children’s elementary school by car.  We went back to the house and my husband came home.  We heard someone saying “The tsunami is here!”  We all went to the third floor of a nearby apartment building.  I saw black tsunami water coming to our way.  A family at that apartment building invited us in to stay overnight.  We heard people asking for help outside - it was terrible.  
The next day we went back to our house.  The first floor was gone.  I went to get food from a convenient store.  We spent two days on the second floor.  My parents were trying to come but the roads were closed up.  On the third day they were able to find a way to come to our house.  They were so happy to see us alive. My two children and I decided to stay at my parents’ home in Matsushima for several months.  My husband and my parents-in-law stayed behind to clean up the house.  I knew Sue because my children went to the same school as Sue’s children.  When I first come to Nozomi, I was anxious about making jewelry.  I didn’t think what I make would be worth selling.  Now I really like working at Nozomi.  I love making jewelry and talking with other women my age.  I feel accepted.  I am very thankful I have two children alive.  I can move forward because I want to protect and support my children. 

Kazuko E.  (Necklace Artisan)

I am thankful for staff who are very kind to us ladies.  I don’t think there is a better work place than Nozomi around here.  We get paid well for clean and fun work.  Usually at a women-only work place, there are relational problems.  But we enjoy working together and like one another at Nozomi. 

 Kazuko named one of our favorite necklace lines after her high school daughter, Saya.  See this style here.  Saya is studying hard at cram school.  We've enjoyed getting to know her at some English classes and other events.  

Yumi E.  (Shards Artisan;  Photographer)

I was home with my husband and two-year-old child when the earthquake hit.  I went to get our two other children at their elementary school.   On our way home, we saw water flowing from the tsunami wall.  Fortunately my husband came to pick us up with his car, so we quickly drove toward a nearby mountain.  The road was starting to flood as we drove.  It was scary.  We drove up to the mountain and spent the night.  The next day we walked down to the town and found some food.  We decided to drive down to an elementary school and spent three days there.   Eventually we went to stay with my brother’s family for two weeks and then moved to my husband’s company housing. We rebuilt a new house last year.  However, the Japanese government decided to ban the area for rebuilding.  I’m unhappy with what the government has been doing in Tohoku.  I don’t see a bright future for the country of Japan.
 I met Emi in a job training class after the tsunami.  She told me about Nozomi and I started working in November.  I like working at Nozomi, because it gives me flexible work hours.  It’s not so rule-bound and I feel relaxed at work.  I enjoy polishing shards and taking pictures of the end products. 

Hiromi T. (Jewelry Artisan)

I was home with one of my two daughters when the earthquake hit.  I grabbed my bag and we walked to my older daughter’s school.  I saw a lot of people gathered in the auditorium.  I found my sister and her children there.  My sister decided to go get her son and our mother.  Our mother wanted to stay at home, but my sister forced her to go to school.  As soon as they arrived at the auditorium, the tsunami water blasted through.  Cell phone connections were out and I didn’t know if my husband survived or not.  Fortunately, my husband came next day.  We spent two days at the school evacuation center.  Since there was very little food, we decided to go to our mother’s house.  Ten family members lived together for about 8 months until we found an apartment unit to move into.  Temporary housing was too small and packed tightly.  One of my daughters is still having a hard time in dealing with tsunami and she has been receiving counseling.   I was a stay-at-home mom.  After the tsunami, I kept thinking negative thoughts all the time since I have extra time at home. I knew Sue from my daughter’s school.  I thought it might be good to get a job outside of the home, and decided to work at Nozomi.  I have less time thinking about negative things.  I am thankful for Nozomi because I can keep myself busy and interact with great people.

Yuko S.   (Jewelry Artisan & Manager)

I was at work (a large store) when the earthquake hit.  The store manager and administrator were off, so I felt responsible for helping our customers run to safer places.  I did a store announcement and let everyone go before I went to find my son.  
All of a sudden I felt scared and sad.  I tried to drive to my son's school, but the road was jammed with cars.  So, I went to an ocean road, and ended up abandoning my car near the sea.  I ran to the school.
When I found my son safe, I started worrying about my mother.  I started running to her house but saw a black wall (the tsunami) coming in front of me.  So, I had to go back to school.  I felt so bad about leaving my mother behind.  That night my son and I stayed at the school, and I helped some of the school staff make a make-shift toilet area in the gym.  Many old people and children needed help using the toilet throughout the night.
The next day I was so relieved when I saw my mother and my brother alive.  My father came back from a business trip that day.  The five of us reunited and started living in my parent's house.  The first floor was completely destroyed by the tsunami.  Even though we became busy cleaning up the house every day, it was almost like the tsunami was a dream.  Or I was wishing it would have been a dream.  I had to keep myself moving forward.  Otherwise I would have been depressed.  
A year after the tsunami I met Sue at my son’s school.  We became good friends.  One day Sue told me about her idea to create jewelry out of shards and invited me to work with her.  First I was making jewelry and later asked to be a manager.  I was hesitant but then thought I might be able to bless others by helping the Nozomi Project move forward.  I had low self-esteem but I’m finding more self-worth at Nozomi.  Nozomi means a lot to me.  It is not just a work place but a place where I can be myself.  We can be honest about our hurts and weaknesses.   I feel comfortable here.  I might have lost a lot through the tsunami, but I also gained a lot through it too.  My family and friends are more important than material things.  I received a lot of help from others, even from strangers.  It touched my heart a lot and changed my world view. 

The Kumiko necklace is named my Yuko after her mother.  Kumiko means "beautiful one," and we think that this necklace, Yuko, and her mother all have this in common.  Click here to see the Kumiko design which is enhanced by a sterling silver cross charm and (for most of the necklaces) a hope charm.  


Emi K.   (Shards Artisan)

On March 11, I was at my work near my house. I immediately went to get my two children at their school. I was wondering where to run to for a while but decided to go to the third floor of the school.  It was the right choice, because the tsunami had already come when I looked out of the window. The next day we tried to go back to our house, but couldn't walk through the debris. So, we went to a temple on the mountain and stayed there for about 10 days. 

My parents were searching for us, but they thought we must be dead when they saw our house destroyed. They were so relieved when they found us at the temple. We moved to their house and our extended family all lived together for several months. Eventually my husband and two daughters and I moved to a temporary housing unit. 

I heard about Nozomi project because my mother-in-law lives next door to the Huddleston family (Chad & Jennifer). Chad helped my family clean up their house after the tsunami. When I was looking for a job, Jennifer invited me to Nozomi.

I love working at Nozomi because of the time flexibility I have as a mom. I can easily go get my children at school. Also, the Be One staff are so kind and we all get along well. I am happy to work here.  I’m looking forward to building a new house and starting a new life.


Tomoko   (Necklace Artisan)
I was living at my sister’s house.  When the earthquake hit, I was with my son.  He and I went to my daughter’s school [the nearest evacuation center for emergencies).  My sister went to get our grandmother and they came to the school.  We were all at the auditorium where there were over one hundred people.  Children were all panicky and crying.  Tsunami water started pouring into the auditorium, so we had to stand on the stage or up on the gallery.  We had very little food and water. 

The next day my sister and her two sons went to get our futons [bedding] from the house.  My mother, brother and his child came to school.  They had been caught by the tsunami but able to survive, perched on top of a stranger’s roof through the previous long night.  Sadly, my brother’s wife Rumi** didn't make it – she had tried to drive home before the tsunami hit, but because she had dropped off a friend first the tsunami came when she was just two blocks from home.

The following day my sister’s husband came looking for us.  He had to walk many kilometers for many hours since no one could drive around this area.  We went back to our house.  The first floor was flooded, so we slept on the second floor.  We didn't have a kitchen, so we lived on snacks and juice for a long time.  Eventually we fixed up the first floor.

I met Nozomi because my daughter Noa** is in the same class as Sue’s son.  After the tsunami I wanted to do something but didn't know what to do.  I was a little hesitant about working at Nozomi because I have never made jewelry before.  However, I received a lot of compliments during the training time and started gaining confidence.  It was such good timing and a  great process of healing.  Nozomi helped me take steps to move forward in my life.  If I hadn't met Nozomi, I would have been stuck in hopelessness.  I don’t even know how to express my gratefulness towards the Nozomi staff who have cared for me.

*Click here to see our beautiful necklaces named in honor of Rumi, Tomoko’s sister-in-law.  **Our Noa line is named after Tomoko’s sixth-grade daughter. 

Wakako T. (Jewelry Artisan)

  I feel comfortable at Nozomi.  Everyone is nice to me.  I don’t have to pretend like someone else.  I can be myself.  That is why I continue to come.


Chieko N.   (Jewelry Artisan)








Kazuko E   (Necklace Artisan)






Yumi E.  (Shards Artisan;  Photographer)





Hiromi T.   (Jewelry Artisan)





Yuko S.   (Jewelry Artisan & Manager)







Emi K.   (Shards Artisan)






Tomoko   (Necklace Artisan)








Wakako T.   (Jewelry Artisan)



Chiemi H.   (Shards Artisan)




Kazuko E.  (Necklace Artisan)


I am thankful for staff who are very kind to us ladies.  I don’t think there is a better work place than Nozomi around here.  We get paid well for clean and fun work.  Usually at a women-only work place, there are relational problems.  But we enjoy working together and like one another at Nozomi. 

 Kazuko named one of our favorite necklace lines after her high school daughter, Saya.  See this style here.  Saya is studying hard at cram school.  We've enjoyed getting to know her at some English classes and other events.