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

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

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.