A woman from Ofunato who lost her junior high school classmates in the 2011 tsunami calls her late friends inside the phone booth. Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato

Tsunami survivors call lost loved ones on 'phone of the wind'

By Mari Saito

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Such heartbreaking sadness to read this.

24 ( +25 / -1 )

I hope the people agreed to have their photo taken, a little privacy here would have been better.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

This story has been reported repeatedly by virtually every media outlet over the past decade. One of the best was a 22-minute audio story in 2016 titled “Really Long Distance” on This American Life. Have the tissues ready.


11 ( +12 / -1 )

Heartbreaking. Many Japanese people need urgent assistance and counseling for many forms of PTSD.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

Good podcast episode about it here: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/597/one-last-thing-before-i-go/act-one-0. Has audio clips of calls (with callers permission(s) of course). Moving stuff.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I'm not the callous sort, believe me, but with my volunteer work with the aged and extremely vulnerable, which I stopped last year, after 13 years of it, I witnessed at least a death every month. but it's been ten years and I was in Sendai when it happened. Time to move on. Memories don't have to drive you to unfathomable depths of grief.

-13 ( +7 / -20 )

This is both heartwarming and tear jerking, but I love this article. I just pray that these people find comfort. In my opinion, I find comfort in my dearly departed when they interact with me in my dreams.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

What a lovely tribute, human-scaled and offering a distinctly personal experience.

I think this is more appropriate than keeping huge wreck of a school building that people drive past every day or possibly even see out of their window.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

This sounds like it helps a number of people, for an incredibly small cost. An excellent thing to have. I hope the concept spreads, and that many others in Japan and around the world can use a Phone of the Wind to find some peace.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

The tsunami deaths - over 18,000 of them - were overlooked internationally because of the Fukushima nuclear incident which killed - nobody? Maybe, one, two?

18,000 people died in that wave. This is the greatest loss of life in Japan by incident since the Second World War. Never forget it. Never forget those people who died silently and whose deaths were not given nearly enough attention!

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Tough article to read. Quite sad. It is like visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. You cannot leave that museum without getting affected. Very important to not forget the ones who lost their lives in the horrific events. Such a tragedy for so many lives.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Really painfull. Call your wife on the phone that she use to have to talk to her.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

What an astounding idea! I absolutely love this idea of placing a phone for people to talk with their lost ones. It beings some kind of closure to them and gives them a chance to get their personal thoughts and feelings out. So sad to read this though! Just looking at the pic of Sakai-san crying says SOOO much.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

It begins - It gives them

(stupid auto correct!)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My heart and feelings are close to these people.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Superstition that maybe really helps. It’s quite a paradox, I don’t understand.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

So sad, but what a touching and wonderfully thoughtful idea. It provides an outlet for the bereaved and invokes sympathy in those who see others using it.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@Asiaman7, I checked out the audio clip link and it was a great story except the opening monologue which compared the 2011 tsunami to 9/11 ("three times as many people died")...as if a natural disaster was somehow "worse" then terrorists murdering people.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Saw the documentary about this on NHK World yesterday ... super sad but somehow nice that they have this place to let loose of their emotions at least some times.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The above article is very moving, even after this amount of time people are still missing and greaving for lost loved ones, if this phone box gives them some sort of comfort, that is great. is this the correct translation for the phone in the wind?

風の電話 Kaze no denwa

4 ( +4 / -0 )

There is a documentary about this phone on ARTE tv, a european coproduction. Dupped in several languages.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Just heartbreaking. Can’t imagine the pain but happy that someone cared enough to help others to find a way to process their grief. A lesson for us all. Thoughts and prayers with them.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Would be much more effective if it could ring Suga's office directly for them to complain.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Just to put yourself in their shoes for one moment brings so much pain, difficulty and suffering from their loss. It's so incredibly hard to move forward from that traumatic day on. Glad that they could offer something like this for them to express what they've been holding inside for near a decade now.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This article reminds me to always tell my love ones I love them when I depart from them, you never know if you will hear from them or see them again. So sad very moving to read the story.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Totally heartbreaking. I will always say a prayer for them and may them find peace.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I know a lot of articles on this site have an expiration date and are taken down later, but I hope this one stays up a while. There is no real moving on from something like this. Just moving in a different direction, and dealing with new realities to the best of one's abilities. The absences of loved ones will always be felt, but whatever kind of solace the survivors can find, I hope they find it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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