The Kaze no Denwa was completed and put into use in the aftermath of the Great Eastern Earthquake of 2011. Though the phone box was completed in the midst of the Tsunami's destruction, it is intended to be used by anyone who wants to reconnect with their lost loved ones, whether they died during the disaster or otherwise.
Otsuchi, a town whose income relies heavily on the fishing provided by the spoils of the Pacific Ocean, had its harbours and ports totally wiped out by the Tsunami of 2011.
On the outskirts of Otsuchi in a patch of hillside untouched by the tsunami lies ‘Bell Gardia', the garden owned and maintained by Itaru Sasaki in which he built the Kaze no denwa.
Itaru Sasaki has been a resident of Otsuchi and the neighbouring town Kamaishi all his life. Though he does not use the Kaze no denwa to speak to his cousin so often anymore, he now sees himself more as a part of it instead.
A local resident holds back tears as she reads through the messages left by other users of the Kaze no denwa. Though she was fortunate enough not to have lost friends or family to the tsunami, it did destroy her home. Despite this she felt that she could not show any remorse for her loss because she thought it insignificant in comparison to the losses suffered by who had more than just material possessions taken from them.
Vast stretches of land that lie in the valleys of Otsuchi remain flat and desolate as rebuilding in the town only just begins five years on. As well as it taking time to find sufficient funding to support the massive reconstruction effort, town planning has substantially slowed any progress due to disputes over land ownership - much of which was possessed by those who died in the tsunami.
Businesses in the region such as this local fishing merchant have only just been able to reopen several years after the disaster due to families having lost everything to the tsunami.
Hundreds of hard-hatted contractors brought in from around the country can be seen working to rebuild the town that still to this day, though not in ruins, lies mostly void of the buildings, houses and infrastructure that once stood there.
To Sasaki-san, having the Kaze No Denwa in his garden has become a full-time job. As well as maintaininghis garden to be ready for visitors, he makes himself constantly available so that those that come to visit can speak to him about their grief, complementing the therapeutic healing that the Kaze no Denwa offers.
The first users of the Kaze no denwa were actually those who had come from out of town to visit it. Local residents were initially put off from using it because it demonstrated a level of emotion that was deemed inappropriate in a time where the town needed to remain strong in the face of adversity. Even in the presence of media, residents did not want to appear ungrateful for all the help they had received from the country amid the crisis, choosing to cover up their sadness with a façade of smiles and thanks once they had been rescued.
Having heard about the Kaze no Denwa a couple have travelled over 200 kilometres to visit it, tearfully paying their respects to the service it has done for the Japanese people
Kaze No Denwa (The Wind Phone)
(2016) Amid the sudden and unexpected loss of his cousin to cancer in 2010, Itaru Sasaki had started to contemplate how he might maintain some kind of connection with his cousin after death. His answer, though unconventional, was to erect a telephone box in the middle of his garden. Within it sits a black, old-fashioned rotary telephone - the cable to which sits neatly tied up with an elastic band beside it. The phone is not connected to anything, nor is it supplied with any power, however he decided that it could be used to speak to his lost cousin - his messages being carried to him on the coastal wind. He named the phone ‘Kaze no denwa’ or ‘The Wind Phone’.
Soon after the 2011 Tohoku tsunami, while he was still finishing the phone box, news about its existence spread quickly across Japan via social media. Soon Sasaki-san would come across strangers appearing in his garden unannounced who, having made the pilgrimage from all over the country to visit the phone box, wanted to use it so that they might have a chance to reconnect with their own lost loved ones.