The Minamata Disease Museum is managed by Soshisha, an NGO committed to support Minamata disease's victims since its very foundation. Nowadays, the Museum Tour is one of the more valuable services offered by Soshisha for the sake of learning and spreading awareness of human impact on the environment.
History of Soshisha
Caring for each other
On 1972, it became promising that the patients win on the lawsuit against Chisso. However, the victims could not be so happy; even if they won at the lawsuit, they might lose their place in the community as Chisso has been very important existing for the city economy. Young patients, especially fetal patients, were concerned for their futures since it was difficult to find a place to work for them. The supporters realized the need for a new type of organization that would support patients in their daily lives, provide them a place to meet, and collect and preserve documents. The writer Michiko Ishimure won the Magsaysay prize for her novel about Minamata disease and decided to use the money to help build the Soshisha, joining the donations coming from supporters all over Japan.
Minamata Disease Supporting center was therefore established and started its activities on April, 1974. People named the center "Soshisha", meaning "caring each other" in Japanese. The building of Minamata Disease Museum today, was originally a mushroom factory, where the patients and their supporters worked together. Then, Soshisha played an important role in several lawsuits and in negotiating with Chisso. At the same time, Soshisha offered medical treatment to the victims, and organized an orange farmers association. Many fishermen including the victims and their family decided to grow oranges since the drop in the sale of fish due to pollution. Soshisha also produced organic fertilizer for the farmers.
Our role today
Later, the main focus of Soshisha activities changed from supporting the victims to raising awareness of Minamata disease. The mushroom factory was renewed as museum in 1988, to remaining sins of Minamata disease, and to question the existing society. The exhibition is mostly consisted from items and documents Soshisha had kept. Also, we published books, organized an archive for huge amount of documents.
Now, Soshisha is a place where various people visit throughout the year such as tourists, students, and researchers. We offer a field tour and support for environmental study for individuals and for groups. Although our activities are mostly supported by donation, we also sell organic products such as tea and oranges. Because of Minamata disease, many farmers now use fewer chemicals keeping in mind the health of both the consumers and the farmers. We also collaborate with other organizations such as universities and governmental organizations.