Prayer Phone Currently installed at the Asian American Resource Center's Zen Garden.

Designed by Jieun Beth Kim, Former AARC Education Specialist

Constructed by Mike Miyasaki, AARC Building and Grounds Specialist & Surja Rai, General Maintenance Worker. Currently installed at the Asian American Resource Center, in the center's Zen Garden.

Installation & Inspiration

Prayer Phone, a handmade altar with a disconnected phone, is an invitation to the public to “call” their deceased loved ones while giving offerings and prayers. This project reflects a common custom of many Asian traditions: commemorating ancestors and venerating the spirit world.

Two essential elements compose this installation. The old fashioned phone is a symbolic artifact that represents humanity’s desire to connect and communicate with others. Its historic form evokes passage of time. By contrast, the spiritual act of lighting incense symbolizes the following: sacredness when the element of air is ignited, purification of the environment’s energy, and blessings in return for offerings. These two elements combine to help connect the earthly to the heavens.

This project is inspired by an episode of This American Life featuring stories about Telephone of the Wind in Otsuchi Town, a small seaside town in northeastern Japan. An iconic English telephone phone booth connected to nowhere was repurposed, and people began “calling” family members lost during the tsunami caused by the 2011 Great Japan Earthquake. Telephone of the Wind became a public space for people to grieve for their lost loved ones. In response, Prayer Phone shares in the deep tradition of respecting spirits and coexisting with entities beyond the physical realm, as well as providing a physical space and an outlet to feel connected with the departed.

Visiting the Prayer Phone at the Asian American Resource Center

(Updated April 2021)

Currently the Asian American Resource Center is closed to the public due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Although the public is encouraged to visit the center's outdoor grounds to view current outdoor exhibits while practicing social distancing, the Prayer Phone is housed within the center's Zen Garden, located in the center's interior atrium. We invite the public to view the Prayer Phone virtually below.

Explore the Prayer Phone at the AARC

Exterior of Prayer Phone Installation
Exterior of Prayer Phone

Interior of Prayer Phone

AARC Zen Garden

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