On a hill overlooking the ocean in Otsuchi Town in northeastern Japan is a phone booth known as the “Telephone of the Wind”. It is connected to nowhere, but people come to “call” family members lost during the tsunami of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Many visit the phone booth including a mother and 3 children who have lost their father.
I have Pandora and often listen to “This American Life” on Chicago public radio hosted by Ira Glass. I am completely fascinated by it. EVERY story is deeply insightful, amazingly thought provoking and thoroughly stimulating. I am writing this as I travel from JFK to LAX. I just listened to the story of the telephone of the wind. The documentary looks at the unique role that this phone is playing in helping the grieving process of many, NHK documentary May 29, 2016. I listened to recorded conversations that grieving Japanese families had on this phone. I was riveted to every call as they were interpreted and the stories of each person were shared. Many of these people travel many hours to walk out into a field into a phone booth to pick up a phone and talk to their deceased family members. They know that they aren’t REALLY talking to them. It’s not some telepathic thing but a fascinating way for them to feel connected.
It moved me and in this plane full of people I don’t know, I was struck with the awareness that people have a deep and abiding need for connection, communication and answers. The loss those families feel was deep and sudden. Many of the victims of the Tsunami were never found so the loss was immediate and there was no such thing as closure.
I am left with questions. Am I in touch with the people that matter often enough and deeply enough? Not in some macabre way. Am I courageous enough to express love, care and vulnerability? All of these people at the “Telephone of the Wind” are seeking that one last answer, connection and moment. I like to think that I am VERY conscious of my connections. I am certain that each day I reach out. Then it happened, I saw a post on Facebook that a person I know, respect and care about had died. I don’t feel guilt, or regret. That’s not the point. The point is for all of us to pick up the phone, plan the trip, take the time, and be connected.