Telephone of the Wind


The wind telephone in Otsuchi
Photo by mikinee via Wikimedia Commons

What do you do when you lose someone you love? The 2011 Japanese tsunami took the lives of many people. Liz Waid and Bruce Gulland tell about a man who created a way for people to talk to those they lost.

Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

In Japan, there is a place with a very strange telephone booth. The small building sits on top of a hill in the middle of a garden. It seems odd there among the flowers and other plants. It is far from the city, but many people come to use it. People travel here from all over Japan. Years ago, booths like this were common. But there is one thing that makes this booth different. The telephone inside does not work!

Voice 2  

Local people call this telephone booth kaze no denwa. In English, it means “telephone of the wind”. Today’s Spotlight is on the telephone of the wind.

Voice 1  

Itaru Sasaki is a retired steel worker. He built the telephone of the wind after his cousin died. He loved his cousin very much. And he was very sad when he died. Sasaki wanted a place to talk to his cousin, even though he was dead. He knew no one could hear him. But he hoped that talking would help him understand his deep sadness. In an interview with the radio program This American Life, Sasaki said,

Voice 3  

“My thoughts could not go over regular phone lines. So I wanted them to be carried on the wind.”

Voice 2  

Sasaki placed the telephone in his garden. When he became sad, he would visit the booth. He would talk into the telephone. He would tell his cousin how he felt. It made him feel better.

Voice 1  

For a time, Sasaki was the only one who visited the telephone booth. But then, something horrible happened. On March 11, 2011, there was an earthquake off the coast of Japan. This was not a normal earthquake. It was one of the most powerful in over a century. The earthquake did a lot of damage in Japan. Even worse, it caused a tsunami - a huge wave. Tsunamis often begin from very large earthquakes under the water. Japan is an island in an area that has many earthquakes. So there are tsunamis also. The Japanese people thought their country was prepared and ready for any danger. They had built walls, and huge barriers on the coast to stop the damage. But no one alive had seen a wave this big.

Voice 2  

In March 2011, the tsunami crashed into northern Japan. The water came over the protective walls. It destroyed homes, villages, and cities. The wave also damaged many nuclear power plants. One plant, Fukushima Daiichi, started to leak radiation. Many people who survived the tsunami still had to flee their homes. Even today, these people cannot return. Their homes, and the places they worked, are still full of poisonous radiation. Many thousands of people died in the tsunami. And even more are still missing.

Voice 1  

The tsunami changed things for Sasaki. He lives in a town called Otsuchi. It is on the north-eastern coast of Japan. The tsunami destroyed most of Otsuchi. Some people tried to rebuild the town. Others just left. Life was not easy for them. Most people of the town knew someone who had died these. And the memories were very painful.

Voice 2  

Sasaki knew how difficult these feelings were. He saw so many people struggling with their sadness. So he told them about his wind telephone. He let people come into his garden. They would use the telephone of the wind. He even put a notebook inside. Some people did not want to speak. But they could write about their feelings. Only a few people came at first. But soon, more people heard about the telephone. People from all over the country travelled to Sasaki’s garden. Some visited many times. The telephone booth became a special place. People would visit it to remember those they loved.

Voice 1  

NHK is a Japanese television network. They made a film about the telephone of the wind. The film was called “The Telephone of the Wind: Whispers to Lost Families.” It was broadcast on the five year anniversary of the Tsunami. NHK recorded several visitors to the telephone. Some do not speak much. Other people speak just about their lives. They talk about their jobs, or their families. There are some people who cry. They express their sadness in the open.

Voice 2  

In the film, one man walks into the booth. He is a young father. His wife’s name was Mine. His son’s name was Issei. His whole family died in the tsunami. So he is very sad. As he speaks, he begins to cry. He says:

Voice 4  

“Dad? Mom? Mine? Issei? It has already been five years since the tsunami. If my voice reaches you, please listen. I do not know what I am living for. Issei, please let me hear you call me papa. I built a new house. But without all of you, it has no meaning. I want to hear your answer. But I cannot hear anything.”

Voice 1  

Talking to people who have died is something many people do. Many people honour the memory of people they loved in similar ways. They visit cemeteries, and talk at the place where the person is buried. Or they visit special places. This helps them remember the one who died.

Voice 2  

But the telephone of the wind has become very special to many Japanese people. For many, the places they would visit are gone. The tsunami destroyed these places. The telephone of the wind provides a special place for anyone who wants it. It gives people the chance to express their emotions. It lets them know they are not alone.

Voice 1  

In the NHK film, a mother and her children visit the telephone booth. The mother lost her husband in the tsunami. She begins to cry in the booth. She is sad that she will never see her husband again. And the booth helps the family to talk about him. As she leaves, the mother tells her children:

Voice 5  

“We were all so sad. We did not think we could make it through. And that is why we never talked about Dad until now. But talking to him on the telephone today, it changed something.”

Voice 2  

Have you ever lost someone you loved? How did you deal with that loss? Is there a special way that people mourn the dead in your culture? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. And find us on Facebook - just search for Spotlight Radio.

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Dan Christmann. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Telephone of the Wind”.

Voice 2  

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Have you ever lost someone you loved? What did you do? How do you deal with the loss?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Secret
said on March 07, 2017

I have ever lost my grandafther I loved. I cried many times. I always pray for my grandfather’s soul.
Through article, I really admire Japanese people and their culture.

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kenhieuloilam
said on March 09, 2017

Life has joy and sadness. None of us does not experience difficulty and suffering in life. We make much effort to struggle with difficulty and suffering. We make much effort to overcome difficulty and suffering. We may have our dear persons. We may have our friends. We may have everyone around. We may need time to overcome difficulty and suffering. Life has joy and sadness. We make much effort to ease difficulty and suffering in life. We help each other overcome difficulty and suffering. We live our lives well in life.

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HoaDao
said on March 16, 2017

The story is really touched. I think i love all of my relatives, it’ll be deep sad if one of us have to lose someone we love. Anyway, thanks for your program.

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Dela
said on March 18, 2017

I was moved deeply listening to this story that took a place in Japan. People who lost a person they loved need to talk about their loos, they remember the past common living and imagine they may speak to them who left, died. Surely, an excellent, unusual idea to build a booth with ‘‘telephone of wind’‘can help many people struggle against their sorrow, sadness and loneliness, being in that strange place may relieve their desperation at least partly!
Thanks Spotlight team for another amazing, emotional story!
Greetings!