The Japan News より  (九州すずらん訳)


For more than half of her life, Fujie Sakamoto has been forced to live in agony because of Minamata disease. “If it were not for Minamata disease, I could have lived peacefully by the sea,” the 88-year-old said.


All four of her family members, including her late husband and their eldest daughter, who died young, are officially recognized as patients of the disease.The disease is neurological poisoning caused from eating seafood contaminated with methyl mercury industrial waste water. Regarded as the nation’s first major pollution problem, the disease was officially recognized in Minamata in 1956.


Seeking official recognition as patients of the disease, victims have filed one suit to another against Chisso Corp., a chemical company blamed for causing the disease. In 1995, the government attempted a political settlement such as offering sufferers lump-sum payments.


However, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in 2004 that found the government responsible for the outbreak of the disease. Following the ruling, the number of victims seeking to be recognized as Minamata disease patients soared.


The law concerning relief measures for Minamata disease victims was enacted in 2009. About 65,000 people, including patients of Minamata disease in Niigata Prefecture, have applied for recognition to become eligible for compensation and financial aid.


Sakamoto’s husband, Takeyoshi, was a Chisso employee. In the summer of 1953, the couple had their first child, Mayumi.Around that time, mysterious deaths of cats were reported in Minamata after the cats became unable to walk. The couple never imagined the deaths were caused by mercury in fish from Minamata Bay.


Mayumi, meanwhile, began stumbling and crying in the summer of 1956, just before turning 3. In May that year, Minamata disease was officially recognized, but the cause of Mayumi’s symptoms remained unknown at that time. A month after falling sick, Mayumi lost her eyesight. She then began having difficulties in walking, speaking and eating.


“She collapsed every day and looked as weak as a doll,” Sakamoto said.Mayumi died at the age of 4years and 5 months. Sakamoto filed a group suit against Chisso to seek compensation. In 1973, the Kumamoto District Court ordered the company to pay from 16 million to 18 million per patient.


Soon after the court decision, Sakamoto visited the company’s headquarters in Tokyo because she wanted to prod the firm to pay compensation to victims who were not plaintiffs of the suit.


“Chisso’s excecutives at that time were cold. Their attitude was like,’Why don’t you let it go because we’ve already paid,’” she recalled. “With feelings of anger and pity building up, I threw back their money and said to them, ’Here’s your money back. Now bring Mayumi back to life.’”


"Some people believe anything can be settled with money. I believe such thinking leads to pollution problems,” she added. Sakamoto also said, “ We can’t prevent these problems unless companies and governments around the world give serious consideration to the lives of people invulnerable positions.”








by kyoumogenki123 | 2013-11-02 22:30

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