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To not let history fade

May 1, 1956. On this day, Minamata disease, which is said to be the first pollution case in Japan, was officially confirmed for the first time. The string of numbers of this date, 195651, is also used in the domain name of the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum, which exhibits valuable materials on Minamata disease and preserves them for posterity.

Minamata disease, caused by the ingestion of methyl mercury, causes numbness in the limbs, impairs mobility, and in serious cases, leads to coma and death. As such, the disease has caused tremendous pain and suffering to the victims and seriously impacted the local community.

Fifty-four years have passed since then. This year on March 15, the court presented settlement conditions and other arrangements for an ongoing trial with the patients’ group. I considered the responsibility of the government, which had not provided sufficient measures to prevent pollution and the feelings of those who had suffered for so long, and decided that the government would accept these conditions. On March 29, along with Kumamoto Prefecture and Chisso Corporation, an agreement toward settlement was reached with the patients’ group.

In light of this agreement, the Cabinet decided on a policy for relief measures based on the special measures law related to the relief of Minamata disease victims and resolution of the Minamata disease problem in the April 16 meeting. We will start accepting applications for compensation from Minamata disease victims from May 1 in order to bring relief to the victims swiftly and to the greatest extent possible, based on the basic principle "to protect people’s lives."

On May 1, a memorial ceremony for the victims of Minamata disease will be held in Minamata. I would like to attend this ceremony as the first Prime Minister to participate. If I am allowed to attend, I intend to apologize once again, on behalf of the government, to the victims for not having been able to prevent the damage from spreading.

Squarely taking on board the feelings of the victims, we must pledge to never allow this to happen again, and pass on this experience to the world and to the next generations in order to not let the truth and history of Minamata disease fade.