Have You Heard the Heartbreaking Story Behind The “Phone of the Wind” in Japan?

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  • It is a fact that many lives were lost during the 2011 triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident in Japan. Since many people have a hard time enduring the bereavement of their loved ones, the so-called “Phone of the Wind” was made. It was meant as a tool for one-way communication in which visitors can “contact” the people they have lost and talk to them, expressing their feelings and thoughts, which helps them in the grieving process.

    What is the “Phone of the Wind”?

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    The “Phone of the Wind” is located on the hilltop of a garden in the town of Otsuchi in Iwate Prefecture, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is said that the white glass-paned telephone booth was made by Itaru Sasaki, a local garden designer. He made it after he lost his cousin in 2010, a year before the disaster.

    For Itaru Sasaki, the phone was a way of maintaining a relationship with his beloved cousin even after death. Although the phone is not connected to anywhere, he believes that his messages and thoughts are carried on the wind; thus the name, “Kaze no Denwa (風の電話)” or “Phone of the Wind.”

    Since the 2011 tragedy, Itaru Sasaki made the telephone booth available to the public.

    How does the “Phone of the Wind” help people?

    The story about Japan’s “Phone of the Wind” quickly spread. Now, many people visit the hilltop to mourn the loss of their loved ones. It is said that within the three years since the disaster, around 10,000 people have visited the telephone booth.

    However, not all who come here lost their loved ones during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami; some people also come to reflect on the memories of those who died from accidents and suicides. The “Phone of the Wind” comforts people; it helps them express their feelings and move on.

    There is also a notebook placed beside the phone in which visitors can leave messages.

    The popularity of the “Phone of the Wind” increased due to media reports. Itaru Sasaki also wrote a book about it entitled “Kaze no Denwa: Daishinsai Kara Rokunen, Kaze no Denwa wo Tooshite Mieru Koto (風の電話:大震災から6年、風の電話を通して見えること),” which translates to English as “The Phone of the Wind: What I Have Seen via the Phone 6 Years Since the Earthquake.” It was published by Kazama Shobo.

    If you want to learn more about the “Phone of the Wind,” you can watch this short documentary by NHK WORLD:

    You can reach the “Phone of the Wind” in Otsuchi, Iwate by taking a high-speed train from Tokyo. You can also use a car but it will take approximately seven hours via the Tohoku Expressway.

    Some people are still grieving the loss of their loved ones during the 2011 disaster. Some are still hoping that someday, somehow they’ll show up at their doorsteps. However, there are others who have already accepted the fact that they are gone.

    Since the disaster, many families have started to value each other’s presence by spending more time together.

    “Phone of the Wind” Website *Japanese only