Wind phone

Article

August 19, 2022

The wind telephone (風 の 電話 kaze no denwa?) is a monument located in the town of Ōtsuchi, Japan. It consists of a non-functioning telephone booth whose visitors ideally have conversations with deceased loved ones. Created in 2010 by garden designer Itaru Sasaki following the death of a cousin, the following year it was opened to the public after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed over 15,000 people in the Tōhoku region. Since then, the monument has welcomed over 30,000 visitors and has been replicated in different parts of the world, as well as inspiring several novels and films. black telephone, disconnected from any line and resting on a metal shelf, next to a notebook that serves as a register for the signatures and thoughts of visitors.

History

In 2010 Itaru Sasaki, Ōtsuchi's garden designer, learned that his cousin had terminal cancer with only three months left to live. After the death of his relative, in December 2010, Sasaki decided to put an old telephone booth in his garden so that he could continue to feel in contact with the deceased, ideally "talking" on the phone with him. According to Sasaki, the wind phone was not designed with a specific religious connotation, but rather as a way to reflect on the loss of a loved one; in an interview he stated: "Since my thoughts could not be transmitted over a normal telephone line, I wanted them to be carried by the wind." On 11 March 2011, the most powerful earthquake recorded so far in the history of Japan occurred: an earthquake of magnitude 8.9-9.0 with an epicenter in the sea that produced a huge tsunami. The two events combined caused more than 15,000 deaths in the Tōhoku region, over 1 200 of them in the town of Ōtsuchi alone (approximately 10% of the population). Following the event, Sasaki decided to open his wind phone to the public, to allow visitors to "call" their friends and family who died in the disaster. Since then, the site has been visited by over 30,000 people. Over time, due to exposure to the elements, some wooden and metal parts of the cabin began to deteriorate and require maintenance; in April 2018 Sasaki stated that he hoped to replace them shortly and the public responded with a fundraiser that brought in over a million yen with which, in the following August, the man was able to replace the original cabin structure with one in aluminum.

In mass culture

Literature

In 2017 Sasaki wrote a book of reflections entitled Kaze no Denwa - Daishinsai Kara Rokunen, Kaze no Denwa or Tooshite Mieru Koto (i.e. The telephone of the wind: what I saw by telephone in the six years since the earthquake) and published by Kazama Shobo. The 2020 novel What We Entrust to the Wind by Italian writer Laura Imai Messina tells the story of a woman who loses her family in the Tōhoku tsunami and then embarks on a journey to the wind phone, during which she meets a widower and her daughter who have suffered similar losses. The novel was inspired by a visit from Messina to Ōtsuchi's wind phone in 2011.

Cinema

The 2019 short film The Wind Phone, written and directed by Austrian Kristin Gerweck, tells the story of seven different characters who visit the Japanese wind phone. As she stated, Gerweck wrote the script for her play when, after the death of her grandmother, she learned of the existence of the telephone. Kaze no Denwai is the title of a 2020 Japanese film directed by Nobuhiro Suwa, which narrates the story of a student who, after losing his family in the Tōhoku earthquake, to