There is a phone booth. A beautiful structure of white wood and glass simplicity, it stands atop a hill in the northeastern Japanese town of Otsuchi. Inside the booth, a small shelf holds a thin spiral notebook, a ballpoint pen, and a rotary dial telephone, its black worn to a smooth shine from the clutch of countless hands, its cord curled up behind, connected to nowhere, reaching everywhere. It is called, “The Phone of the Wind”.
Since the 2011 tsunami of the Great East Japan Earthquake, survivors have come to The Phone of the Wind to call their dead loved ones. For some, it is a one-time pilgrimage of many miles and many hours to stand inside the booth and say what was unsaid before the wave overtook the town. For others, visiting the booth has become an almost habitual ritual, a place to come when even, “words are not enough”, a place to cling to the belief that their loved ones do hear them, that they may, even, make a response.
For years, I have encouraged the bereaved to speak to their dead loved ones, to talk to them, aloud and fearlessly, to call them by name, to ask for their help. The Phone of the Wind is one of the most beautiful, most literal examples of doing just that.
I encourage you to take 49 minutes to watch this documentary: The Phone of the Wind: Whispers to Lost Families.
We are more alike than we are different. And so often it is grief that binds us