Niwano Peace Foundation Holds Study Session on Outbreak of Mercury Poisoning in 1950s
The Niwano Peace Foundation held a study session April 26-28 on Minamata disease, which is caused by severe mercury poisoning. The session was held in Minamata City, Kumamoto Prefecture, where the disease broke out in the 1950s and was caused by eating seafood from polluted seawater. The session studied the city's involvement in restoration of the environment and in the present revitalization projects of local communities.
The 14 participants included Dr. Koichi Kawamoto, director of the Chuo Academic Research Institute, which is affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai. They learned about the history of Minamata disease and the city's efforts to recover from pollution. Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by a massive pollution of the sea by industrial waste water containing highly toxic methyl mercury. The city's active involvement in the protection of the environment and revitalization of local communities prompted the Japanese government to designate Minamata an Environmental Model City in 2008.
On April 26, at the city's Minamata Disease Center Soshisha, the participants heard a lecture by Mr. Masazumi Yoshii, a former mayor of the city, in which he reviewed the development of the disease and its effects on the lives of local residents, and the city's efforts to restore its natural environment and help residents rebuild their lives.
On April 27 the participants visited Kagumeishi, a mountainous district of the city, where they observed a community project to protect the environment and revitalize local culture. They visited the Mura Marugoto Seikatsu Hakubutsu-kan (Museum of a Whole Village's Way of Life). There they also heard a speech by a victim of Minamata disease, Ms. Yoko Araki.
On April 28, in a public hall in the city, they heard a lecture by Mr. Tetsuro Yoshimoto, an advocate of jimoto-gaku (local learning), a concept for revitalizing local communities through the rediscovery of their natural, cultural, and spiritual wealth. Mr. Yoshimoto emphasized the importance of learning about the local culture to revitalize communities.
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