Visiting Heart Knit Project in Iwate

On February 27, three directors of Touhoku HELP, Igata, Saigusa, and Abe visited the office of “Heart Knit Project”(

Heart Knit Organization is working in cooperation with “3.11 Iwate Church Network (Iwate Net)”. Touhoku HELP, through the support of “Iwate Net”, had the honor of supporting the activity of Heart Knit Project. Wherein, we paid a visit to them in order to also properly greet them.

Director Saigusa had once before visited the organization at the end of October last year, so this was the second time for “Touhoku HELP” to pay them a visit.

Matsunoki who works at a skiing school in Iwate, was the main member who commenced this Heart Knit Project, right after the earthquake.

The disaster afflicted people are traumatized because of the earthquake she thought. Isn’t there a way to fill in the gap of their hearts? Matsunoki had been thinking of these things all the time. But after the disaster of earthquake, there was a period when the mood was everywhere to voluntarily restrain from pleasure and work, so due consideration was paid to such matters, and she came to a conclusion. Sitting there doing nothing will have no good influence to the wounded heart. It is important to have one’s mind at rest through work. If someone does not stand up to do so, no one will.

As she came to this conclusion, her imagination developed rapidly. Work which demands to move ones hands is good. Yet it is not good to use needles and scissors. Well, then it might be good to do knitting using wool!

In this way, this project was planned out. The project began by sending wool and kits for knitting, to the shelter where the people afflicted by disaster took refuge. Knitting was then taught there, and a piece of work was assigned to them. The knitted piece was then sold, and the proceeds from sale were entirely given to those who made it. This is how “Heart Knit Project” started.

Matsunoki called out to her colleagues (Ski related Network) for cooperation. There was immediate response. And wool was delivered from all over Japan. The project started rolling from April 2011.

Matsunoki told a story of when she started this activity, saying she will never forget it.

When she first delivered the wool kits to the shelter, and assigned a piece of work to the people at the shelter, and later went to pick up the completed piece of work, the expression on the face of disaster afflicted people, those who were knitting at the shelter seemed very happy. There were also many completed woolen sponge. The impression Matsunoki received that day was unforgettable to her. At that time, she strongly felt this project’s possibilities. And she started thinking of a way to continue this project, whatever means it might take.

Heart Knit Project at present:
1. Receives wool delivered from volunteers all over Japan.
2. Sorts it out by its color and designs.
3. Deliver it to the “knitter” (The people who knit, living at the shelter/ temporary housing) afflicted by disaster.
4. The “knitter” knits the requested piece of work.
5. The knit piece of work is sold by Matsunoki.
6. And completes when the proceeds from the sale are entirely given to the “knitter”.

So this is the flow of the play out.

100 “knitters” focused around Otsu Town, Iwate Prefecture, have been participating now in this project, and the total sales amounts to 4.5 million yen all of which had been handed over to them. The Project which was commenced at the shelter is now transferred to the temporary housing area, but its activity is continuing.

A year is about to pass from the day disaster overtook the area. Yet there were happy episodes as the project continued. The happy thing about the project is of the improvement of the knitters knitting. They have now been knitting for a whole year, and they make really good product. We could now sell the product with confidence, and not just with the value of “Product made at the disaster affected area”. The knitters also feel it is worth the effort, and they participate in the project vigorously all the more.

“The project started rolling, because the people living near the coast have made up their minds to step forward. I really hope this project would connect to their future.

Matsunoki with a happy but serious look on her face, told us the story.

Heart Knit Project was commenced with protraction in view from the very beginning. In the beginning there were times when they lacked staffs, and were very busy in getting the work done. But from now on they would put their strength in building a firm framework of the connections enhancement with organization that would be willing to cooperate with them.

Actually, many people have been supporting their activity. For the designing and knitting of the piece work, teacher from a knitting class have been continuously coaching and directing from April, helping knitters to produce many beautiful products.

Every year in June, there is a tournament in Iwate Prefecture called “Iwate Galaxy 100km Challenge Marathon(” In 2011, Marathon Relay Race Sector used a sash made by Heart Knit for their team’s sash.

Also, Aiko Uemura a mogul skier came to know the existence of Heart Knit Project through connection with skiing, and is using its product for her sport wear this year. (For details please search “Heart Knit Aiko Uemura Blog”)

The product is now being sold in ski resorts, and in the department store in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka. Matsunoki had great interest in continuously expanding the sales network, she sells it not because people will buy saying it is produced in the disaster afflicted area, but she sells it with a confidence that it is a good product.

Indeed, when we took the product in our hands, it really had a fine touch. Creating item for winter is now on hold and the planning to knit woolen product for summer, like arm gloves to protect from sunburn, and products to keep from getting chilled by air conditioner at the offices is now being scheduled.

We paid a visit to their office this time, and our eyes were opened, at their focus on the future and the foreseeability of their activity and evolving. The continuity of activity is now being expected at the disaster affected area. Restoration work will take a long time, even from 10 to 20 years.

We need to have a firm vision of the future, and create organization accordingly. Steady activity would be its foundation, and the work should be done thoroughly, those who cooperate should respect each other, and in keeping the connection important over a long period of time, vision for the future starts to come in view. The activity of Heart Knit Project is a wonderful model of such movement.

The arresting smiles of everyone at the office were also warm, and we felt at home. The impression of all the staff gave us reassurance, that this activity would be a great one, as these wonderful people worked together.

I report this, as I thank for the opportunity given to us even from now on, to be able to work in cooperation for this wonderful activity.

(March 23rd 2012 written by Abe and Kawakami)

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