Why the disease only happened in Minamata but not in a factory elsewhere?
We did not go out of the hotel today but it was still a productive day. We got to listen to three vital sectors involved in the Minamata Disease issue. First was the government, who was represented by Mr. Yoshito Tanaka- the Director of the Kumamoto Prefectural Government’s Division of Minamata Disease. Having a division itself solely focused on the issue denotes how it is of importance to the government. Mr. Tanaka cited three major reasons as to why the issues revolving around Minamata Disease are difficult to solve. One is the non-specificity of disease’s symptoms, another is the discrimination on the patients and last, the differing demands on the compensation scheme- for which the government has lent Chisso Corporation with 200 billion yen to avoid its bankruptcy. Mr. Tanaka admitted that due to the immense economic contribution of the company, it has largely influenced the government’s actions on this issue. f Minamata Diseas
After the government, we listened to the personal sharing of the two members from Soshisha we previously met and four of their friends. It was nice to hear from people of our age. From what they shared, we perceived that they are less idealistic especially compared to the high school students we interacted with yesterday. They said “Moyai Naoshi”- a term that refers to restoration of strong social bonds- is not a term that is commonly heard nowadays. Also, they are uncomfortable discussing Minamata Disease with their peers who are not actively involved in the issue. Their peers have enough information about the issue but very few have the motivation to do practical steps.
Lastly, Prof. Nishimura- the author of “The Science Behind Minamata Disease” who conducted research on the disaster for almost 60 years now- gave us a lecture about conducting environmental research. He started by making us think between the value of research and debate. Then, he emphasized to us the importance of being careful in doing research and publishing results as he himself faced a few lawsuits from journalists and patient support groups who viewed his research as not being in line with their philoshophy. He ended with questioning us about the difference between information and knowledge and how it is important to have an organized knowledge about our chosen fields instead of trying to know everything.
Author: Angeli Guadalupe; Figure by Joanne Khew; Photo taken by Minamata Unit 2015; Contributors: Mahdi Ikhlayel, Heng Yi Teah, Joanne Khew