Minamata Disease Museum
What is Minamata Disease?
Minamata Disease Museum is just uphill from the areas with the highest concentrations of Minamata disease patients. It looks down upon the calm expanse of the Shiranui Sea. About a half-century ago, an unknown disease broke out in the fishing villages on the Shiranui Sea. It was Minamata disease; a result of one of largest mercury pollutions in the world.
Chisso, a chemical company located near Minamata bay, drained waste water contaminated with methyl mercury. Although the company had noticed the possibility of harmful health destruction, Chisso kept polluting with the effluent for over 36 years. Methyl mercury accumulated in the fish in the Minamata bay, and therefore also affected local people who ate the fish and shellfish. The result of this mercury poisoning is called Minamata disease. Numerous people suffer from health problems due to Minamata disease, such as sensory disability.
Not only health degradation, but also conflicts within local community is a result of Minamata disease. Although Minamata disease is not an epidemic disease, victims and their family were avoided by the neighbors. People suffering from the disease felt they had to hide themselves. As Chisso held an important economic role in Minamata city, citizens saw the patients as an obstruction of the city's development. When the patients received compensation money from Chisso, people became jealous of the victims for simply receiving money, as symptoms of the disease can be so obscure that people cannot always understand their hardship. Thus, the victims have to manage hard situations that are more than just a simple health problem.
The Minamata disease incident is not simply the crime of one corporation. It might be the historically inevitable result of what seemed the proper thing to do: the pursuit of convenience and wealth. Historically speaking, the Minamata disease patients were sacrificed to humanity’s desires. Now, more than a half-century later, human beings are not yet free of the spell of convenience and wealth. The Minamata disease incident continuously raises fundamental questions about our way of life.
Minamata Disease Museum / Soshisha
34 Fukuro, Minamata city, Kumamoto pref,
TEL: (+81) 0966-63-5800
© Soshisha 2016