Health

First Person: Tells the Tragic Story of Mercury Poisoning in Japan |

As a narrator at the Municipal Museum of Minamata Disease, Mr. Ogata is helping to preserve the memory of one of the most serious pollution incidents in Japan in the twentieth century.

The incident was triggered by the release of toxic chemicals from an industrial plant that accumulated in shellfish and fish and were then eaten by the local population.

More than 2,000 people were recognized as victims, many of whom, including Mr. Ogata, were forced to fight for recognition and compensation: about 20 members of his family suffered from an illness that causes muscle weakness, loss of peripheral vision and impaired hearing and speech.

Municipal Museum of Minimat’s Disease

Mashima Ogata, a storyteller from the Municipal Museum of Minimata Disease in Japan, who lives with the disease.

“Minamata disease first damaged my family in September 1957. When I was almost two years old, my grandfather Fukumatsu Ogata suddenly developed an unexplained illness that worsened day by day with convulsions and salivation, difficulty walking, speech problems, etc. symptoms.

Minamata disease is a neurological disease caused by severe mercury poisoning.

Municipal Museum of Minimat’s Disease

Minamata disease is a neurological disease caused by severe mercury poisoning.

Two months later, he died in the infectious disease isolation ward of Minamata City Hospital. This was the first tragedy caused by Minamata Disease in the Ogata family. However, we were never told what caused the illness. My sister Hitomi, who was born a week before her grandfather got sick, was born with a disability, again without explanation, then other members of the Ogata family began to get sick one by one.

As an adult, I noticed that I had very little sensitivity in my limbs. I work as a carpenter and when I was younger I often cut my finger on a whetstone when sharpening knives because my finger was hanging down.

We came to understand that it was caused by methylmercury poisoning, but we could not publicly declare that we were victims because people thought Minamata disease was contagious.

Rumors are spreading and people are saying that no one should marry a member of the Ogata family. I got married at 20, but on the day of the engagement my wife got a call. Calling me, the man told her, “The man you are trying to marry is a victim of Minamata disease. The entire family will be destroyed. Can you go to a place like this as a bride? ”

When I was younger, I hid my illness from others. I would change the subject if it touched and said it had nothing to do with me. It was my daughter who told me that I must live honestly. Her words stuck in my chest and I decided to stop hiding at the age of 38.

For 10 years, my application to officially declare a victim of Minamata Disease was rejected until March 15, 2007, the Governor of Kumamoto Prefecture announced that she would recognize me as a patient with Minamata Disease.

After getting certified, I asked myself how I would live in the future, and then decided to become a storyteller to educate people around the world about the disease.

Minamata, which suffered so much, has adopted a UN convention named after the city that will save the lives of many people around the world. The Minamata people suffered greatly from illness and were separated, but thanks to this we received miraculous power in the form of the Minamata Convention.

Minamata disease is by no means over, but by showing people around the world what sacrifices can do and what they can achieve, I think the world can take courage. ”

Mashima Ogata, a storyteller from the Municipal Museum of Minimata Disease in Japan, who lives with this disease.

Municipal Museum of Minimat’s Disease

Mashima Ogata, a storyteller from the Municipal Museum of Minimata Disease in Japan, who lives with the disease.


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