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. 

Shards, Brokenness & Hope Six Years Later

We are coming up on six years of the triple disaster that washed away half of Ishinomaki.

We are frequently asked if we still have broken pottery left to use for making our Nozomi jewelry.  And the answer is yes!  We still have crates of pottery gathered by hundreds of volunteers during the first few years; we are also receiving boxes of broken or unwanted pottery from nearby neighbors, friends, and second-hand shops in the area. 

Recently, one of the sons of a Nozomi team member was out playing in a field by his home and came home with a bag of broken pottery.  "Mommy!  I found jewelry!'  

He carefully washed each piece and laid it out on a tray for the Nozomi staff to make into something beautiful.  Each time it rains, hidden pottery becomes unearthed, constant reminders of both the tragedy and the hope that has emerged since.  

Those pieces are now being cut, ground, shaped, and remade into something beautiful.  

While each rainstorm brings new reminders of an unforgettable tragedy, it also brings hope.  Beauty in brokenness.  

Why we never run out of brokenness

It has been five plus years since the tsunami and earthquake struck our beloved region; almost four years since we first started gathering together to see what treasures we might be able to make from the pottery left in its wake.  Here are a couple of photos from our first gathering: 



The natural frequent question is: "Have you run out of pottery yet?  What then?"


Thankfully, we are not worried, and well supplied.  We still have some bins of broken pottery that hundreds of volunteers helped to pick up the first couple of years after the disaster.  

And, we have had an ongoing supply from a local Ishinomaki secondhand store.  They receive many boxes of dishes, and give us the ones that they cannot sell or use.  They are so happy to donate these to our organization.  

We also occasionally receive donations from local friends and others who hear about our work and donate items (if you want to donate broken dishes/pottery to Nozomi Project, you can find our address here.  We cannot do special orders at this point nor cover the shipping costs, but we always love donations of new beauty in brokenness!).  This spring we were so touched by new friends in Kumamoto who, upon receiving help after the spring earthquakes that hit their region, have given Nozomi Project their broken items.  

So we don't expect to run out of pottery!  What we DO expect, however, is that our staff will continue growing in their skills and artisanship in making amazing jewelry out of broken pottery.... We suspect that our staff will continue making beauty from brokenness for making years to come.... And we are so thankful for our many friends who share the story of Nozomi Project and have helped us ship 25,000 products to 32 countries around the world!


What Dostoevsky might want to say to the Nozomi Project....

"The world will be saved by beauty."  -Dostoevsky


Today in our staff meeting we talked about beauty.  It's really sad to go through a whole day and never stop and look at the beauty that surrounds us.  Sometimes it's really small things that are really, really beautiful.  And sometimes it is big things. Our homework this week is to look for beautiful things we haven't noticed before, and to take a picture of it on our cell phones to share by next week.  

And we realized how very very fortunate we are to be in a place where we every day get to see broken things transformed into- something beautiful. Here is one example of transformation to beauty from our work this week.  We pray for eyes to see much more of the beauty surrounding us.



Come Tour the Nozomi Project!

We love every single visitor and customer who comes through our doors.  But we know that visiting us in person in Ishinomaki is not a reality for many of you.  So we've made a short, one minute video that gives you a unique glimpse into daily life at the Nozomi Project.  We are quite sure it will make you smile.  

If you are one of our Nozomi friends who has had a chance to visit the Nozomi Project in person, please share with us - what stood out to you the most?  We all want to hear from  you!

Made by a team... why each piece is special

This week we have appreciated the service of a team from Singapore who have been working with us in Ishinomaki.  One of the members, Daniel, works as a sub-editor for the largest newspaper in their country.  He interviewed a number of us for the purpose of writing an article about the Nozomi Project when he returns home.

One of our staff was being interviewed.  She was asked what the favorite part of her job is.  She thought for a bit, and then she described one of her jobs once the jewelry has been made:

"So I pick up the necklace...And I think about the work that is behind one piece....  The shard has been cut into a beautiful shape,

and then ground down, had a bail placed on it, cleaned, taken into the jewelry room, where one of the staff has chosen it and made a necklace around the shard.  

She works hard to make it into a lovely piece of jewelry.  Then the whole necklace gets cleaned, and I have the privilege of taking the finished product and placing it carefully into a ziploc bag to be sold.  Somehow I hold that necklace and I realize how special it is... because it wasn't just made by one person, but it was made by the hard work and courage of a team of women who are all working together for the sake of this enterprise.  Each necklace is special because a community has helped to create it....I love getting to handle each piece because it represents so much."  


She could barely finish the interview because she was crying so much.


Beauty from brokenness.  (See our current products for sale worldwide - made by a  team -- here). 

Out and About

 It was great fun yesterday to have a group of us representing the Nozomi Project at a local event created to help the various groups across our prefecture who are making and selling goods since the tsunami.  

Despite about 6 inches of snow that fell the night before, throughout the afternoon about eight of us were present from Nozomi.  There were a number of seminars on how to figure out your target customers and make appropriate goods, how to advertise, etc.  It was a great chance for Nozomi to sort of debut in the community.  Our manager Yuko S. did an awesome job representing our team!

About twenty five or so other groups were there, selling a variety of products from homemade soaps, scarves, Hawaiian-fabric handbags.... we shared a booth with the women who are making our kimono Bands of Love.  They are making other beautiful products out of repurposed kimonos.

What I loved the most about the whole event was the joy that our Nozomi staff had in being there, representing our Project, and taking pride in the work of their hands.  

I became teary-eyed in watching our staff take ownership -- answering questions, doing short interviews for some local media, and really being a team together. They have a lot to be proud of!   More beautiful things.