Minamata is a small factory town. Minamata Bay is a bay on the west coast of Kyūshū island, located in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. The bay is part of the larger Shiranui Sea which is sandwiched between the coast of the Kyūshū mainland and the off-lying islands of Kumamoto and Nagasaki prefectures.
Minamata Bay was heavily polluted in the 1950s and 1960s by wastewater, mixed with mercury dumped into Hyakken Harbour from the Chisso Corporation's factory in Minamata, particularly by methylmercury. The highly toxic compound bioaccumulated in fish and shellfish in the bay which, when eaten by the people living around the bay, gave rise to Minamata disease. More than 10,000 people were affected.
A memorial service was held at the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum on 1 May 2006 to mark 50 years since the official discovery of the disease. Despite bad weather the service was attended by over 600 people, including Chisso chairman Shunkichi Goto and Environment Minister Yuriko Koike.
The poisoning of Minamata Bay had a large impact on Japanese culture as well. Hayao Miyazaki used this event as inspiration to create his epic manga (1982-1994) and later anime Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984). According to Dani Cavallaro's book, The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki, "The Minamata Bay fish are unquestonably the real-life correlatives for the immensely and ingeniously adaptable fictitious plants portrayed in Miyazaki's film." Toshiko Akiyoshi composed the jazz suite Minamata for big band, performed on her album Insights (1976) divided into three parts, reflecting the transition of the village from innocence to prosperity and consequence.
- Google Map
- "Memorial service marks Minamata tragedy's 50th year", Japan Times, 2 May 2006, retrieved 29 October 2006 (free registration required)
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