Nozomi Project Blog

Holding Hope to End Human Trafficking!

Nozomi wishes to thank our wonderful customer base for partnering with us to stop human trafficking!  Thanks to your purchases of our Nozomi Holding Hope necklaces, we have donated over $1500 to two organizations in Japan who are tackling this urgent crisis. We love that Zoe International is growing in Japan and working to bring greater awareness to the problems and solution. Lighthouse is one of the most active organizations we have found that is seeking to be a "beacon of hope for survivors of human trafficking and to be their voice." 

We are pleased to announce a continued and widening campaign here at Nozomi! We are actively seeking ways to bring hope to trafficked women in other parts of Asia, and will share exciting updates about how we are expanding our vision to bring hope and dignity to women in other dire situations. 

During this season of giving, we ask that you consider purchasing these necklaces as gifts for loved ones; gifts that are making a difference. 

The First Lady of Japan

Back Story: Akie-san and Nozomi Project

A collective “ohhhhh” of appreciation and some surprise escaped from the group gathered for our morning meeting. On the table in front of us was some mail that had come the previous day: a handwritten note accompanied by a photo of the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, First Lady Akie Abe, United States President Donald Trump, and First Lady Melania Trump.

“I’m sorry it took a while to send you a photo. I don’t have a set plan to visit Ishinomaki for now. But whenever I get the chance, I’d love to visit Nozomi Project… - First Lady Akie-san”


Last summer, Sue & Eric Takamoto were honored to receive a prestigious award from the Foundation for Social Contribution on behalf of their team’s work in Ishinomaki, particularly with the Nozomi Project. The award was presented to the couple by Akie Abe, the First Lady of Japan. Akie-san graciously admired the Nozomi necklace (Aki ornate on Natsuko silver collar) that Sue was wearing at the time.

Our Nozomi team sent Akie-san a complimentary necklace of her own with matching cufflinks for her husband. We received a polite, somewhat generic thank you postcard. Sue replied, inviting Akie-san to an event Nozomi had coming up. We continued to pray for Akie-san and her husband, who are very much in the public eye.

We didn’t hear anything for a long time.


In July, almost exactly one year after the award ceremony, Akie-san emailed Sue back. “I hope to come visit Nozomi when I’m up there next. I wore the necklace you gave me when [my husband and I] went to visit the Trumps at their home in Florida.”

Sue was at the beach with some of our team when she saw this email come through, but there was no “we’ll just wait until we get home” – drop everything; we need to do a google search now! Noses pressed to phone screens, we excitedly confirmed from various press photos that you can, in fact, see Nozomi around the First Lady’s neck!

Sue wrote back, expressing our gratitude for her support and wondering if there was an official picture she could send us. Since then, Sue and Akie-san have exchanged several personal emails. We were thrilled when Akie-san sent the beautiful photo (above) with a handwritten note. 

We are so excited to have such a prestigious figure as Akie-san supporting (and sporting!) Nozomi jewelry! But we are perhaps more excited about this unique opportunity to build a friendship with her. 

In Akie-san's honor, we have saved our favorite blue and white pottery and created a special Blue is Beautiful 2018 Collection. We think you'll love it too!

Giving Back: Flood Relief in Western Japan

These past two months have been particularly devastating for the nation of Japan in terms of natural disasters. This week our beloved country has experienced Typhoon Jebi in western Japan and a 7.0 earthquake up north. Earlier this summer, constant heavy rains led to major flooding in southwestern Japan. Some areas had as much as 3 inches of rain per hour, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Over 200 were killed in flood-related incidents.

In the spirit of spreading hope, Nozomi Project is sending 10% of our July and August sales to help the flood relief efforts. On July 22, 2018, a team from our Ishinomaki community went down to volunteer in a city near Hiroshima called Kure. They joined the Hiroshima Christian Volunteer Center, which has been helping to coordinate the relief efforts with the needs of the communities.

After they came back, we caught up with Chad, who helped coordinate the trip. We’re always honored to partner with him! He shared that the flood evidence was reminiscent of the 2011 tsunami up here – tall floodwater marks, piles of trash, people in great need. Positive aspects of the trip were similar, too: stories of hope, people serving each other, and beauty in brokenness.

Each morning of the week-long relief trip, the team met to discuss the day’s location and assigned tasks. Each day brought a different assignment depending on the needs of the community. The first day they shoveled mud and debris into bags. Another day, they hauled dirt bags away in wagons and onto trucks. There’s a temporary trash dump for the neighborhood; they drove dirt bags there once they’d been hauled onto the trucks.

relief volunteer group sitting around table volunteers in blue vests load debris on truck 

volunteers move dirt bags out of house mass of twisted metal used to be a car 

tall man stands near flood line with raised hand to show height pile of ruined tatami straw mats after flood

Tatami mats (last picture, above) are usually about 3 x 6 feet, a couple inches thick, and cored with wood chips or rice straw. They’re covered with dried woven rush, with cloth along the edges… in other words, they’re great sponges. Any tatami mats touched by floodwaters were soaked and completely ruined. This picture was taken in a neighborhood that had a couple rows of houses, most having tatami-covered ground floors.

Each mud-saturated tatami mat is so heavy that two grown men struggle to carry one mat together. When showing some of our Ishinomaki friends pictures from this relief trip, this picture of tatami mats actually got some of the most significant reactions.

The work was hard and hot. Right after the rains stopped, a huge heat wave caused health difficulties for survivors and a lack of volunteers. Chad told us that at some points, the volunteers were instructed to take a 5-minute break for every 10 minutes of working to avoid heat stroke!

In every disaster we see, we look for stories of beauty in brokenness. We asked Chad what kinds of things inspired thoughts of this theme during the Kure trip…


There’s a man who has, on his own, been slowly working to mud out his home. He’s a bit of a hoarder, so his first floor is full of things that have been ruined by floodwaters. The team was assigned to his house one day. He looks at them a little warily when he sees that their vests identify them with the Hiroshima Christian Volunteer Center.

“I’m not a Christian…”

“It’s ok, we’re just here to help anyone who needs it.”


Some local people came out to volunteer. One neighborhood sent a whole group. They want to serve their own community.


A father-son duo is volunteering together. The teenage son isn’t always the most cheerful when told to do chores at home. But here, he serves joyfully. The father sees this, smiling with pride.


Even in the face of disaster, the Japanese overwhelmingly display admirable qualities of patience and courtesy. They aren’t selfish or panicky. Chad has helped during numerous disasters, and he’s noticed this time and again. The people of Kure are no different.


If you are interested in donating to the ongoing Japan relief efforts, you can do so here:  https://nozomiproject.com/collections/additional-donations-1

Chad is pictured below on the left. Eric (pictured below, right) is planning to lead another team from our community in several weeks. 

four men are dirty from mudouts but smile at camera  twilight makes purple sky over Kure after flooding

17 Ideas for a More Meaningful Holiday Season

  1. Make a plan before the holidays overtake you, and stick with it. Discuss and decide with your spouse/family/roommate, or make a written list of your plans to guide you when the days get busy.
  1. Give anonymously. Each year our family chooses a person or a family with a special need that year (unemployment, broken heater, etc.) and we have fun finding a sneaky way to buy and deliver to them a needed gift.

  1. Choose this year to decorate a little less. Clean out your decorations and deliver the still usable ones to a local charity. The very process of thinking through what you don’t really need feels good and helps strengthen your priority to simplify and focus on what counts.


  1. Give socially-conscious gifts that give back. Of course we love the Nozomi Project, knowing that all proceeds go to help the artisans and the community in the region where the 2011 tsunami struck. The theme of hope and beauty in brokenness makes for meaningful gifts (photo below). Other items from social enterprises we think are great: Trades of Hope offers great trivets and leather world map journals; table runners and flannel/kimono infinity scarves (Megumi Project); awesome leather satchels (Redemption Market);  soup and cornbread mixes (womensbeanproject.com). 

  1. Make homemade gifts! For adult projects we like these ideas: for your kids try some of these. Our personal family favorite annual gift is homemade candied pecans. We buy 18 pounds of pecans at a large warehouse store, and spend several evenings making these as a family and then giving them to neighbors, teachers, and friends. Really – these have become more popular than any store-bought gifts we might give! 

  1. Start a gifts-we-already-have-list (annvoskamp.com). Tape up a big piece of paper on a wall or door and throughout the season have members of your family write down the many blessings you are already thankful for this year.


  1. Who doesn’t love receiving a gift card? Surprise your family, friends, or coworkers with a gift card from one of these meaningful online shops: Raven & LilyTen Thousand Villages;  Nozomi Project. (Did you know you can buy, sell, and exchange gift cards here?)
  1. Friends of mine made up rules for living for one year, and carried them out through Christmas: buying only items that were local, used, homegrown or homemade. Choose any of these ideas for gift-giving and find joy in your choices. (See Craig Goodwin, Year of Plenty).
  2. Choose to help a child this season: become a monthly sponsor of a child, or send a financial or wrapped gift to a child in need. (Our family has personally been involved with Watoto orphans in Uganda; Compassion has children in need all over the world).
  3. No time to put together an Advent calendar of gifts for your family? Make a simple Advent wreath for your table and use this for a weekly gathering time to read the Christmas story together over four weeks as a family.

  1. Think about giving life enriching experiences. A membership to an arboretum or museum; ballroom dance classes; Rosetta stone language lessons; dates with your kids; gift certificates to audiobooks.com; concert tickets.

  1. Get a group of friends together and change up your normal holiday party plans: meet at a senior center to go caroling, with each person bringing a wrapped gift of socks and a new Reader’s Digest; then go back to someone’s home for eggnog and dessert.

  1. Choose a wonderful holiday story and carve out twenty minutes before bedtime each night to gather together and read the story. A few favorites: Little Women (Louisa May Alcott), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis); The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson); The Gift of the Magi (O. Henry); A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens).
  1. For setting perameters on gift-giving within your own family, we really like these guidelines: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. For this last category, last year I found a book list with themes of kindness that I used to buy books for our four children.
  1. When we pull out our stockings, we read our letters to Jesus that we wrote  back in January, as we were taking down the holiday decorations. These are letter/prayers we each write individually, beginning the year by asking Jesus to help us with a particular struggle or weakness. Even our youngest takes this seriously; it’s a great way to start the year dependent on Jesus and end it by celebrating growth.

  1. Give goats for Christmas! We decided with one group that we always exchanged gifts with, to instead pool our money each Christmas and come together and shop from catalogs – choosing to buy things like goats for a family in Africa; or mosquito nets for a village in the Philippines. Our kids AND the adults have loved the chance to not focus on us but give to those who really do need gifts like this. A few options we have used: World Vision Catalog; Compassion Catalog; Samaritan’s Purse Catalog

  1. Finally, please don’t try and do all of these things! Choose a few, live more simply, and make some new meaningful and wonderful memories this Christmas. What are YOUR favorite meaningful holiday traditions!

The Potential of Beauty in Brokenness

This week our Nozomi team received the most precious of gifts - an amazing watercolor painting done by an amazing artist!  Carrie Waller (carriewallerfineart.com) lives with her family in Japan, and through a special friendship with us we have had numerous times to connect.  Carrie generously offered to paint a picture for Nozomi Project that represents who we are.  We absolutely love how this painting represents all of the potential of beauty in brokenness! 

Carrie brought her two boys and another Nozomi friend from Tokyo, and it was interesting to see our surroundings through the eyes of friends who have never been here before They were sobered by the many places that still show the foundations of homes that were washed away in the 2011 tsunami, such as this fishing village surrounding one of our favorite cafes by the ocean (HamaguriHama).

It was while exploring here that her son started digging around, and not surprising, found handfuls of broken pottery.  (People ask if we are still finding pottery -- the answer is yes!)

 As friends of Nozomi reach out to us;  as customers share their stories or receiving hope; as our staff continue to find healing and community at the Nozomi Project, we see so much potential in beauty from brokenness!

An Experiment in Holding Hope

I recently went on a short seven-day trip to the U.S. I decided to buy four of the newest Nozomi 'holding hope" necklaces, and look for people who might need them.  The price ($25) and packaging makes them easy to buy, and easy to give.

It wasn't too hard to find people who needed to be reminded of hope!  A friend dealing with a very sick husband; another friend who shared about her own hope deferred; my flight attendant on the way home who went out of her way to help me. I have the last one in my bag right now, waiting for the next person I meet who needs hope.

Who do you know who needs hope? Multiply your investment! In addition to helping sustain our Nozomi team, we are donating $2 from each necklace to stopping human trafficking in Japan.  

Let's work together to give hope - it's contagious!  Find our Nozomi necklaces here


What can happen when women work together

As we approach celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Nozomi Project this month, we want to highlight the skill and artistry that our Nozomi team has developed. We couldn't be more proud of how this team of women have worked hard to create some of the finest pieces of pottery jewelry in the world. 

The heart of our Nozomi workshop is the grinding room.  This is where the pottery is cut, ground rough, then finely ground to perfection. Our team of seven are creative and seek to make the most beautiful items possible. 

Our Sara hook earrings have remained our best-selling collection. We've made over 7000 earrings! And they just get better and better. This morning we had a new set of earrings ready to go online, and look at these beauties! It's the first time in my memory that we have seen heart-shaped earrings (not in a frame). The skill! the beauty! This month we celebrate the craftsmanship that can happen when women work together. (Get them while they are still here!) 



Creative Partnerships

We are so thankful for the creative partnerships that help Nozomi Project to be a rich social enterprise with many opportunities for growth.  Here are several examples:

-Last weekend we had a music recital for a number of Nozomi children. We are thankful for the different music teachers who have come to teach.

 The recital featured, among others, two budding violin players who were being taught by a staff from our sister organization, the Megumi Project, and one of our Nozomi jewelry artisans who has been teaching piano to the daughter of one of the other artisans.  

We also had a great time of growing and fun with a great team from LifeRay, Inc., a software firm that has come to volunteer for three years in a row.  We benefited so greatly from the synergy or working with their marketing team as we brainstormed and worked on new designs.

We had some great talks about how we could continue got partner together. 

Finally, we are so excited about our partnership with Carrie Roets-Waller, who has been painting a beautiful watercolor that so wonderfully represents Nozomi.  Here is a sneak peak -- more to be revealed next month!


This morning all of us in Ishinomaki and in the greater Tohoku region were woken at 6:02 am by blaring sirens --the same ones used for serious tsunami warnings here-- and automated cell phone message alarms with the announcement that North Korea had fired a missile and it was headed our way. We were told to take necessary precautions -- to flee to a concrete building or underground location (did you know that we don't have any underground space in all of our city?).

After about 15 minutes, the news announced that the missile had broken into pieces in the Pacific Ocean on the eastern side of Hokkaido. Trains and buses in northern Japan had all  been temporarily suspended; our local school sent out a notice that school would begin one hour later than normal.  And then life went, seemingly, back to normal. We could all breathe easier, but the reality of the warning was not forgotten by anyone here today.

Nepal and Houston flooding, Charlottesville, Myanmar unrest, North Korea threats. We cannot go very far nor very long without being reminded of the reality our Nozomi team experienced in March 2011 - life is really fragile

So today, we celebrate beauty as it shows up in the brokenness and uncertainty of each day.

We linger a little longer in the fields with our kids before the sun goes down.

We talk to our grown-up sisters and make sure they know how important they are.

We stand outside as the rain begins, just because we can.  



We look across the table and listen to each other a little better than we did yesterday.

We say I love you to everyone we possibly can before we turn out the lights. 

And we thank God for hope, which does not disappoint.  





Platforms for Nozomi Project

Our team at Nozomi Project continues to be surprised by the different platforms we are given to share the story of "Beauty in Brokenness."  Our most recently gift was last week, when Eric and Sue Takamoto received a special award for their work in Tohoku, especially in starting the Nozomi Project. The Foundation for Social Contribution 2017awards ceremony was held on July 21st at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. There are two types of awards; one is for the heroic action in saving lives, and the other is for serving society through a special contribution. Eric and Sue stood with about 16 others in winning this latter award.  

Sue said, " I was touched to hear these heroic stories and it was such an honor - and so humbling! -  to spend time with people who are making such a difference in the world."

One of the things that the Nozomi team found funny when Sue shared at our staff meeting today was that the Takamoto couple did not realize at first who was giving them their award - it wasn't until the reception they discovered that it was the first lady of Japan, Akie Abe!  

You can read their profiles and stories on their website::http://www.fesco.or.jp/ceremony/index.php

Thanks for being part of our story... for sharing with others about Nozomi Project... for  believing with us that there is beauty in brokenness.   We are thankful for the different opportunities and platforms we are given to share this hope.

From Eric and Sue

"Thank you so much for the amazing honor of receiving this award.
We are deeply touched and don’t have words to express our gratitude.

It has been a great pleasure for us to serve the people of Tohoku.

We love the words of Jesus, ‘Those who wish to save their lives will lose it, but
those who lose their lives for my sake will find it.”

It’ has been one of the best decisions we have ever made to "lose" ourselves in
Ishinomaki the last five years.  We have gained so very much!

We accept this award on behalf of our wonderful teammates, the beautiful
women of ishinomaki, and our beloved friends and people of Tohoku."