Call Them on a ‘Wind Phone’ so the Breeze Can Carry Your Words

Spotlighting a unique way to connect with lost loved ones.

Mar 30, 2023


Call Them on a ‘Wind Phone’ so the Breeze Can Carry Your Words | Spotlighting a unique way to connect with lost loved ones.

Ever heard about wind phones? These unusual communication hubs function as a therapeutic salve for people grappling with bereavement. They are typically found in a booth set in natural surroundings, where grieving folks can go to call their departed loved ones on a disconnected “phone” that will carry their words to them with the wind. 

Wind phone booths are a place of solace for those who have unsaid messages or just routine updates they feel the need to share with the friends and family they have lost. As our video explains: “it makes no logical sense, dial a phone connected to nothing yet… speaking their grief to the wind seems to offer a certain kind of connection.” 

The story of Itaru Sasaki’s exceptional grief resource
As My Wind Phone reveals, garden designer Itaru Sasaki created the original wind phone in 2010,  while he was mourning the loss of his beloved cousin in the small town of Ōtsuchi in northern Japan. Sasaki bought an old-fashioned phone booth, and placed it in his garden, installing an obsolete rotary phone in it; one that wasn’t connected to any “earthly system.”  Yet within this installation, its creator discovered a place of connection to his cousin as well as comfort and healing.  He called it Kaze No Denwa (the Phone of the Wind.)

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Just one year later, in 2011, a devastating earthquake and the destructive tsunami that followed it, killed thousands of people, eradicating entire towns in Japan and elsewhere in the Pacific region. Sasaki’s small town recorded the highest number of missing persons, yet he was able to salvage his phone booth, and relocate it to a more public place on a windy hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He invited people mourning the many tsunami victims to visit the booth, in the hope that they could connect with their lost friends and family just as he did. According to this Facebook page, over 30,000 people have visited since, while his invention has inspired novels and films. 

This is a space imbued with spiritual meaning. As My Wind Phone puts it, it is a “Shrine mindfully created to connect people to their loved ones on the other side. It is one of the world's most powerful resilience sites. Grievers travel from around the world to "call" their loved ones in spirit, to say the things they didn't get a chance to say while the person was living. It is a place that offers the peace and solitude grievers need to work through their pain.”

Wind phones are going global
Since the first wind phone was created in Japan, it has inspired many others acting as healing spaces for the pain of loss around the world. 

Perhaps their popularity is down to them filling a void in dedicated spaces that can comfort the bereaved just at a time when death and the pain of grief are now spoken about more openly. In a comment on an Instagram post on wind phones, counterintuitive.nature replies “This just makes beautiful sense.”

This “wind phone map” is an interactive search tool that shows how these “shrines” have become a global phenomenon.

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The Tampa Bay Times, for instance,  discusses how bereaved mom, Laura McCullough, connects with her late son, Devon,  at the wind phone in Folly Farm Nature Preserve. After his death, the color went out of her world, and she struggled to cope with the weight of her grief. An article in an inflight magazine informed her about Sasaki’s Japanese installation and inspired her: “When Laura got back to Florida, she messaged the garden club president at the park near her Safety Harbor home. Folly Farm already had a community garden, butterfly garden, playground and gazebo. Could she put a wind phone there?” The garden club president, Gary Sawtelle and his artist friend, Chris Dotson, were happy to oblige. 

Today, McCullough doesn’t hear Devon’s voice, she reports getting uplighting answers through small signs of his presence. And about a dozen people pick up the phone here each week. Users include a local mom’s grief group supporting other bereaved mothers, whose members meet at the wind phone on Mother’s Day, taking turns talking to their children. “Just because someone is gone doesn’t mean the relationship is over. It’s just a way to connect," Mccullough tells Spectrum News.

The notion of the wind phone has inspired other artists and professionals too. Dina Stander, for instance, is a poet and “End-of-life Navigator” whose imagination and heart have been moved by Sasaki’s story and project. Her response is evident in her moving slideshow of wind phones in different locations. Stander has since created a “pop-up Phone of the Wind to share this unique experience, and has consulted on a number of permanent installations.” She shares that for her, this labor of love is not a commercial project but an exercise in “radical kinship.”

Carried by the wind
Of course, the role of the wind as a messenger between our world and the afterlife is not a new idea. In Greek mythology, for instance, the gods needed to send messages between worlds, and the figures of Iris and Hermes were messengers who traveled beyond the earthly realm at the speed of the wind.

The vibrations of wind chimes too, are also seen as a positive conduit for spiritual energy, including the spirits of the departed. So these suspended, decorative clusters of small, often sculpted pieces that chime when blown by the wind, creating a sense and sound of serenity, are also often felt to be memorials to lost loved ones. 

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.