Nozomi Project Blog

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

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!

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!) 




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.  





Nozomi Project's Story from the TedX Stage!

Nozomi Project's founder and director, Sue Takamoto, was invited to speak at the TedX Waseda event on July 2. The event's theme was "Ripples to Waves" and Sue's task was to share how the idea of creating something beautiful out of broken pottery has turned into a five-year-running social enterprise employing 13 women, training them to craft beautiful jewelry. She also called listeners to choose together to see beauty in their own brokenness.

At Nozomi, each team member names a line of jewelry after someone who is important to her. Many of the ladies have named lines after their daughters or mothers; one named a line after her sister-in-law (Rumi) who was lost in the tsunami of 2011. In her talk, Sue weaved together the stories of three women who are either currently working at Nozomi, or have worked with us and moved on to fulfill different dreams. She gave a glimpse into how each woman found beauty in her own brokenness. 

Sara's grandfather is an unsung hero from 3/11 - when the waters were rushing in, he threw his wife and his grandson, Sara’s brother, onto the safety of a passing firetruck.  He did not survive the 30 feet wall of sea. Sara’s mom finds healing by working every day with broken pottery that she makes beautiful. 

You can view the Sara collection here.

Mika couldn’t leave her home for about a year because of severe PTSD and depression.  She was able to slowly come to Nozomi as she was able, finding through that process a place of healing and wholeness.

You can view our Mika collection here.

Misa's mom was Sue's shyest mom friend on the school yard, struggling with the challenges of a son with autism.  Over these 4 years of working at Nozomi, she has gained so much dignity and confidence.  She says her worldview has been changed - she recently shared at our staff meeting how she used to view autism as a curse;  now she sees what a blessing her son is to her and her family.

You can view our Misa collection here.

You can hear what some of the attendees had to say about Sue's talk here.

And in Japanese here.  

We will let you know next month when the talk comes out on YouTube!

Great job, Sue!

Chance to Receive Ishinomaki Coffee!

 As we remember the triple disaster that struck Japan 6 years ago this month, we are excited to introduce Ishikawa Coffee Company and give our support to a fellow local business. We are currently sending two Ishinomaki coffee filter packs to our first 100 customers*! Watch for beautiful, new designs this month and take advantage of this chance to drink some delicious coffee, blended right here in Ishinomaki! (*with online purchases of over $20).

Ishikawa Coffee Company owner, Mr. Ishikawa, takes care to choose only top quality, fresh coffee beans from around the world to skillfully blend in his shop. He says what he likes most about the blending process is being able to take different types of coffee and create new and unique tastes. 

When Ishikawa Coffee Company first began, they were operating out of a 107 square foot building. The company has grown through word of mouth and now has its own coffee shop that serves simple dishes and delicious desserts in addition to their on-site blended coffee, which is also sold at 2 other locations in Ishinomaki.


All of the coffee gift packages include a picture of a famous place in Ishinomaki paired with an "Ishinomaki" special blend (written in Japanese characters).

We hope you'll take advantage of the chance to get this free gift, enjoy a cup of coffee, and feel the love from Ishinomaki!  As always, all proceeds go to the Nozomi Project women and the continuation of the project. 

Nozomi: Not just for 49% of the population...

We were thrilled to have an awesome male computer team from Liferay (based in Diamond Bar, CA) come and work for a week with us in Ishinomaki.  As they each had different chances to do some shopping at Nozomi, it was fun to see them (independently) choose necklaces for themselves.  Don't they look awesome?  Many forget that we have some great options for men - check out our Ayaka line here and fine your own favorite!



This week Nozomi Project had a chance to give a special gift to one of the local elementary schools. We are buying several trees to help make the playground and the area around the school beautiful again.  

Our first purchase was a peach tree.  We loved how the school principal and vice-principal came out and joined in the digging.  It should bloom sometime this next week.  We hope it will be a special reminder to the students, staff, and community of beauty that comes from brokeness.


White Day - Day for Reciprocating

Have you ever heard of White Day?  It's a holiday celebrated in Japan and it's all about reciprocating the gifts you received on Valentine's Day.  Isn't that fun?

Unlike the western notion of February 14, in Japan primarily women give chocolate gifts to men.  So March 14 is the day for returning the favor.  On White day, men buy a gift for the women who gave them chocolate.  Originally this was some kind of marshmallow treat, or white chocolate (hence the name "White Day"), but now anything goes.

Nozomi Project is honoring this day of giving by marking down four of our favorite lines of jewelry!  So Guys, here is your chance to follow the Japanese custom of White Day and enjoy purchasing beautiful gifts for the women in your life!  Women, you can take advantage of White Day as well by using this campaign as a chance to find great gifts for others and yourself.  White Day gives one more great reason to love Beauty from Brokenness.  


Iyori Stud Earrings: $24
Daiki Keychains: $24
Shiori Bookmarks: $24
Risa Ring: $30

Our friend and popular author and vlogger, Grace Buchele Mineta, has featured Nozomi Project in a recent vlog and explained the Japanese giving culture around White Day.  Check it out here.

Make sure to watch all the way until the end for a free shipping code you can use on your next purchase from Nozomi Project!

(White Day Sale starts 2/19, midnight EST, and ends 3/2, midnight EST.)

Heart & House Warming

Today Ishinomaki has been rocked by numerous earthquakes that have been centered just north of us - so far we have had about ten quakes since the 6.9 this morning.  A number of our staff have commented how it feels like sea-sickness... the ground is rocking back and forth beneath our feet.  It has been unsettling, literally and figuratively.

We were so encouraged this morning, though, as we started the week with a staff meeting and a chance to share and pray together.  This included welcoming a new staff to the Nozomi Project!  We are so glad that Kumiko is starting, and will be joining our grinding team.  

Also during the meeting, two of our staff were surprised with gifts from the rest of the Nozomi members.  Their families have both moved from temporary government housing into new homes recently built since the disaster when their previous homes were washed away.   Many still remain in difficult living situations; it was wonderful to see the Nozomi members share in each others' joys and celebrate in such a special way.  

Coming together in the midst of uncertainty and fear was a great way to start our day.