Case studies

The Wind Phone

Created by Itaru Sasaki

The Wind Phone was created in Japan by Itaru Sasaki, while grieving his cousin who died of cancer. He purchased an old-fashioned phone booth and set it up in his garden and installed an obsolete rotary phone that was not connected to wires or any “earthly system.” Here, Itaru felt a continued connection to his cousin and found comfort and healing amid his grief. Itaru gave his phone booth a name, Kaze No Denwa (風の電話), translated as The Phone of the Wind.

“Because my thoughts couldn’t be relayed over a regular phone line,” Sasaki told This American Life, “I wanted them to be carried on the wind.”

The following year, in 2011, an earthquake (9.1 magnitude) resulted in a tsunami with 30-foot waves that obliterated the coast of Japan, destroying entire towns and taking thousands of lives. Many were swept out to sea, and their bodies never recovered. The city of Ōtsuchi is recorded with the highest number of missing persons. The tsunami’s catastrophic waves destroyed the town; its people were left in ruins by the tsunami of grief thrust upon them.

Itaru Sasaki was able to salvage his phone booth and relocate it on a windy hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the foot of the Kujira-Yama, next to the town of Otsuchi. He welcomed mourners to visit his phone booth to make calls to their friends and relatives lost in the great tsunami, hoping they would find a connection to help them cope with their grief as it did him.

The Wind Phone is a shrine mindfully created to connect people to their loved ones on the other side. Grievers travel from around the world to “call” their loved ones in spirit, to say the things they didn’t get a chance to say while the person was living. It is a place that offers the peace and solitude grievers need to work through their pain. Itaru Sasaki has inspired the creation of many beautiful spaces all over the world with the sole purpose of holding space for a griever. One where the wind will carry their words to those they love who have gone ahead.

The Wind Phone is managed solely by Sasaki Itaru and his wife. They depend on a charitable foundation that supports the area.

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