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  • Writer's pictureAmy Dawson

The Tsunami of Grief

I’ve read quite extensively about Japan’s earthquake and tsunami of 2011, also known as the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami or the Great Tohoku earthquake. If you’re like me, intrigued by Sasaki Itaru, the creator of the original “Phone of the Wind,” you may be interested in learning more about this devastating natural disaster.


From all accounts, Friday, March 11, 2011, started like most other days. At 2:46 pm, with only minutes of warning, people in Tokyo experienced an Earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0. It was the strongest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history. This generated a deadly, 23-foot tsunami that reached land within half an hour lasting approximately six minutes. The 2011 Japan Tsunami is believed to be the world’s most expensive disaster in history.

Tsunami is a Japanese word meaning “harbor wave,” and it certainly is that. A tsunami is a series of giant waves called a wave train caused, in this case, by an underwater earthquake. Typically, the first wave of a tsunami is not the strongest; successive waves get bigger and stronger. The enormous waves swept away people, homes, and city buildings and left sheer devastation behind. It is estimated that 90% of the 20,000 people who died or are missing drowned; thousands were injured.


In the aftermath of the tsunami, there were no funerals or grave sites. The Wind Phone became a shrine of sorts, “a bridge connecting the world of the living to the world of the dead.” (Sasaki). He created the Wind Phone to ease his grief in 2011 and gave others the gift of a sacred place to process theirs after the tsunami, picking up the pieces of their shattered lives.


Photo Credit: Mainichi Shimbun via Reuters



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