The Phone of the Wind: Surfer's Vision to Help Grieving Tsunami Victims

Matt George

by on

Updated 276d ago

There exists the most extraordinary phone booth inJapan , created by an avid surfer. It sits in a serene garden overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the outskirts of a town known as Otsuchi.

This blue, glass framed phone booth holds within it a worn, black, bakelite rotary phone whose cables are neatly coiled and attached to absolutely nothing. It never jangles with incoming calls and its outgoing calls do not travel through cords and wires. Instead, this phone carries within it meditations on life and death.

Nat Geo documented the devastation.

It has become a site of pilgrimage for the residents of the Otsuchi who are still busy untangling the grief that remains knotted in their stomachs. A grief 7-years-old. When in 2011 the Tsunamis struck and three 20-foot waves swirled through their streets and their bedrooms and their playgrounds. A centuries' old town obliterated in under an hour.

In the horror of the aftermath, Itaru Sasaki, still a robust surfer at 60-years-old, salvaged the corner phone booth and nestled it in a hilltop public garden. He then invited the town to step into this phone booth, anytime of day or night, to make phone calls to their dead friends and relatives that they had lost in the great Tsunami.

An opportunity to say all the things to the dead that they were never able to finish when their sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers and children were still alive.
“Because thoughts such as these cannot be relayed over a regular phone line” Itaru said to them. “They must be carried on the wind.”

This phone booth is now known as the Kaze No Dewa. The Wind Phone. And it is now a new type of shrine. And the pilgrimages continue. Because grief is long and hard to carry. It’s heavy and shifting. And this phone booth is a place on earth where one might find the privacy to work on their pain.

A place to wrestle with the tragedy that roiled through their lives. And all this was created by the same forces that are distant cousins to all the waves we ride. Which is to say also that a surfer in Japan, with a solution like this, will never need our common western ideas about anything. He will be forever distinct and separate.

And the best we can learn from this surfer is to allow him to teach us two lessons. That we may laugh at the Japanese for being so different, but never forget that they laugh at us for being all the same. And the second lesson?

None of us are as smart as we think we are.

Cover shot by Alexander McBride Wilson.