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For Those Living With Grief, Japan’s Beautiful “Wind Telephone” Offers Solace

Nature has long been invoked as a place of refuge for those in mourning– from Greek and Roman mythology to Japanese Haiku and turn-of-the-century Latin American love poems, which often found ways to draw allusions to death, love, and heartbreak by seeking solace in the beauty of nature. When Cheryl¬†Strayed’s mother died, she sought solace in hiking (an experience that eventually became the book Wild); and when a catastrophic tsunami hit Japan in 2011 and killed thousands of people, many sought refuge by speaking to their relatives “through the wind”. Japan’s “wind phone” (in Japanese: kaze no denwa) is just the latest iteration of man’s quest to seek the divine in everyday life.

In a recent podcast for NPR’s This American Life,¬†Producer Miki Meek tells the story of this very special phone booth in Japan– a garden destination that attracts thousands of people who lost loved ones in the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. A Japanese TV crew from NHK Sendai filmed people inside the phone booth, whose phone “is not connected to anything at all”. There, in the garden, victims from all over Japan attempt to make peace with their lives.

In the podcast below, Meek also explores how nature (and our faith in its esoteric qualities) can be a source of comfort and relief for those suffering with loss. To date, thousands of people have made the pilgrimage to the “wind telephone”– located in a private garden overlooking the ocean in Otsuchi Town, Japan– and thousands more continue to visit in hopes of making peace with their loss, as if they can talk to their lost relatives through nothing more than the elements of nature. While the phone booth is not connected to anything, the wind telephone remains a place of refuge and a means of coping with incomparable loss.

Below, NPR explores how this deeply moving story typifies the Japanese spirit with respect to nature, spirituality, and the beautiful (if invisible) forces that connect us all. Listen to the story of the “wind telephone”, below.

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