MINAMATA Tokyo Exposition
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MINAMATA Tokyo Exposition
Date: September 28 - October 13, 1996
Site: Specially prepared space in front of JR Shinagawa Station,
Statement of Purpose
Minamata disease, widely known as a symbol of industrial pollution, was
discovered in a corner of southern Kyushu in 1956, the year the White Paper
on the Economy proclaimed "the postwar period is over." Since then, through
victims' movements and through court cases, studies, and research, the
outlines of the Minamata disease incident have gradually become clearer.
For those of us who are neither direct victims nor direct perpetrators, it
is extremely rich in suggestions about our society.
The technological level of Chisso, the company which caused the disease,
was world class. The substance produced in Chisso's production process
which caused the disease, methyl mercury, does not exist in nature. It is a
deadly poison that kills human beings even in tiny amounts. Minamata Bay
and the Shiranui Sea were a veritable treasure house of fish and shellfish,
the staple food of coastal fisherfolk. Chisso's production continued until
it had poured more than enough mercury into the sea to kill all hundred
million Japanese twice over.
It was not only Chisso that knew the cause and concealed it. The government
authorities of Japan, which boasted of being a modern democratic state,
fearing the spread of the problem to other companies using the same
process, harm to the chemical industry, and delays to its own
industrialization policy, protected the company causing the disease. This
made the outbreak of Niigata Minamata disease virtually inevitable. One
example of this government response was the use of police power against
victims seeking a halt to the dumping of waste water and an apology.
Citizens, too, merely frowned at the impoverished victims, and not even
progressive forces or religious figures attempted to extend a helping hand.
More recently, in the name of ensuring the continuation of compensation
payments, the government has provided continuing financial assistance to
Chisso. At the same time, by mobilizing medical authorities to narrow the
definition of Minamata disease, it continues to refuse to recognize the
suffering of over 10,000 victims.
Even now, when the need for global environmental protection is widely
noted, there has been no fundamental change in this structure. These facts
impel us to reexamine the character of corporations, the state, science,
and the whole of modern society.
Yet it is an undeniable fact that the growth of the chemical industry,
Japan's economic development, and our "convenient and abundant life" have
been brought about by economic activity and technological development such
as that of Chisso, which caused Minamata disease. And this is not true only
in Japan. Throughout the world, the competition to industrialize and to
raise the level of industry is giving rise to innumerable "Minamata
diseases." Even aside from Minamata disease, there are innumerable examples
of the contradictions and crises brought by this "system of democratic
states based on industrial production and modern science." Yet no one has a
concrete plan for going beyond this, and society's sickness silently
worsens. The pursuit of the greatest good for the greatest number not only
gives rise to severe repression against minorities. It is also beginning to
result in a weakening of modern women's and men's sense of self and sense
of connectedness with others.
Japan, 1996. This is the sort of age in which we live.
Looking back, though, we see that we have been supported and encouraged by
the gentleness and strength of those who had the courage to lift their
voices from the extremes of suffering, alienation, and poverty. Listening
to the words of these people and looking once again at Minamata disease
will help us in considering how we should lead our lives from now on. We
want to read again all of the accounts, research, and records of Minamata
disease, lay out the facts clearly, and pass all of this on to those now
On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the official discovery of
Minamata disease, we are holding a "MINAMATA Exposition." We of the
planning committee ask from the bottom of our hearts for your participation
MINAMATA Tokyo Exposition Planning Committee
Shibuya 2-19-17-1001, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150
Tel: 03-5485-6107, Fax: 03-5485-6639
(international calls, Tel: +81-3-5485-6107, Fax: +81-3-5485-6639)
From Minamata Disease Patients
These words distill forty years of experience. We seek to comprehend the
weight of the experience behind each of these words. This is the starting
point of the "MINAMATA Tokyo Exposition."
I farm with very few chemicals in order that Minamata disease patients do
not become the cause of disease themselves, and I will be very pleased if I
have a chance to discuss this.
We must win our court case for the patients who follow us, and the MINAMATA
Tokyo Exposition is important in mobilizing public opinion.
Iwamoto Natsuyoshi(Osaka, deceased)
Through my experience in the war, I realized in a very concrete way how
terrible the wrong type of education is. I hope you will work with the
Koshokan to tell the truth about Minamata disease.
It was not only fish and cats and people; the sea itself was also stricken
with Minamata disease. So we must go beyond questions of perpetrator and
victim to reconsider the crimes we human beings have committed in cutting
ourselves off from nature.
I want you to make the exposition an interim examination on how well we in
our whole Minamata struggle have defined the issues and recovered our
You can not see the real situation without coming to Minamata. I hope the
people putting on the MINAMATA exposition will come and see things with
their own eyes.
I want you to let the public know that there can be no out of settlement of
the Minamata disease issue as long as Chisso and the government do not
fully recognize how much the patients have suffered for so many years.
It has been a long time since I've been in Tokyo. It has already been 20
years since our sit-in of a year and nine months. A great deal has happened
since then, and I look forward to seeing everyone.
I am grateful for your concern for the souls of Minamata including human
and non-human. After wandering in the abyss of death, I come to realize
that I am being sustained by them to live on. I will participate in the
exposition, hoping it will be a fruitful meeting.
A great many people and living things have died of Minamata disease, so we
must strive like you to attempt to comfort their souls.
At that time, Minamata disease resembled the problems of discriminated
buraku, and showed the worst aspects of this world. We need to talk about
how to live so as to turn this negative situation into something positive.
I can not walk any more, and there are things I do not want to talk about,
but it is important for people throughout the country, and people
throughout the world, to know about them so that Minamata disease never
We did not leave the Shiranui Sea because we wanted to get away from it. I
hope you will listen to the voices of patients like us outside the
For those of us who are not officially certified, it is important that the
government's responsibility be recognized. It would help us if the
activities of the MINAMATA exposition clarified it.
Date: Tue, 6 Aug 1996 14:24:47 +0900
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Saburo Horikawa)
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