【Minamata disease】Full introduction
In this exhibition, we introduce the materials such as leaflets that appear in Michiko Ishimure's Fish of Heaven in chronological order, focusing on the materials related to Associations to Indict (Those Responsible for) Minamata Disease (1969-) and the "Leafletting Battle" (1971). She was also involved in the making of leaflets as a member of Association to Indict, which was established in Kumamoto City. Many Kumamoto University students were also engaged in the Association and their monthly newspaper "Indict" played a role in informing the whole country of the movements of patients and supporters.
Fish of Heaven was written as the third part of Paradise in the Sea of Sorrow: Our Minamata Disease. Ishimure came to Tokyo with Teruo Kawamoto, a "newly certified Minamata disease patient" who was certified as a Minamata disease patient in October 1971, and wrote the work from real-time actions and gaze.
In 1968, the Japanese government (the Ministry of Health and Welfare, MHW) officially confirmed that Minamata disease is a pollution-related illness caused by methylmercury compounds discharged from the Chisso Minamata factory. The Mutual Help Society of Minamata Disease Families (1957-), which was formed by patients and their families, signed a "consolation contract" (1959) with Chisso, which was a low compensation even at that time. However, the recognition as a pollution disease raises the issue of patient compensation again.
Around 1970, the Mutual Help Society split into the "Mediation Faction" that entrusted the settling of compensation problems to the "Minamata Disease Compensation Processing Committee" established by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the "Litigation Faction" that aimed to solve the problem of compensation through proceedings and negotiate directly with Chisso. Furthermore, following the notice of the Vice-Minister of the Environment issued in August 1971 and the administrative determination of the Environment, some people were finally certified (newly certified patients) after the dismissal by the Pollution - Related Health Damage Certification Council has been cancelled.However, Chisso Company refused to negotiate compensation through discussions with newly certified patients, and decided to leave it to the government because it was different from the conventional certification and could not provide similar compensation. Newly certified patients who asked for direct negotiations against Chisso carried out sitting down (the Independent Negotiation Faction).
In response to these movements, groups and citizens who appealed for the economic and social benefits of Chisso and criticized the behavior of patients also spoke out loudly. People living in the limited area of Minamata were in a state of division at the risk of their existence.
The complaints of each group were distributed to the general public as newspaper inserts, and the quick and heated dispute was called the "Leafletting Battle" (1971). It was similar to the current exchange of complaints using the Internet and SNS and the formation of public opinion. Tatsuaki Okamoto wrote about the situation at that time as follows.
"The [new] certified patients who lost their temper sat down in front of the Minamata factory, demanding compensation of 30 million yen per person. It was supported by the Associations to Indict, the Citizens' Council, and the First Union. At this time, Chisso had a great sense of crisis. After all, no one knows how many patients will be certified in the future. Chisso went out to crush using all their resources. The city, city council, second union, and Liberal Democratic Party were all mobilized to form anti-patient citizen groups, signature campaign, daily villa attacks, harassing patients' homes, and holding a citizens' convention to defend Chisso. At this civic tournament, Minamata Mayor Masaki Fuke said, "We will fight even if I turn public opinion all over the country into an enemy in order to protect Chisso" (Okamoto 2015-4: 11).
What was each of these movements like? What kind of thought did the thoughts scattered by the popular means of leaflets make people feel? How was the intention to be related to <Minamata disease> and the intention not to be related to it fostered? This exhibition explores these questions while introducing materials.
Meanwhile, Michiko Ishimure wrote leafletts to support independent negotiations as a "Associations to Indict Minamata Disease". At the time when there was no Internet or SNS as it is now, one of the quickest ways to show ideas and opinions to the world was mimeograph printing. It was called "mimeograph culture" (1950-1980s) in Japan. Printing was then replaced by rotary presses and copiers. Even in the leafletting battle in Minamata, leaflets including mimeographs were distributed as insert leaflets in local newspapers and were picked up by many citizens.
Mr. Kawamoto and other patients sat not only in front of the Minamata factory, but also in front of the Chisso headquarters in Tokyo and inside the building. On the streets, leaflets printed in tents by independent negotiate faction patients, their families and supporters from Minamata were distributed.
"What is a hand-printed mimeograph leaflets written on Warabanshi[Japanese writing paper made from straw]? I wonder while giving what I wrote by tearing a piece of paper to an embarrassing young man who is in charge of leaflets, I don't even know his name. Perhaps the leaflet-style communication that seems to be going on among young people and students is like a transitory manuscript made by the thought that is forced to die prematurely." (p.10, January 1972, written about the leaflet of Tokyo metropolitan assembly)
Ishimure accompanied "people who have a name but who are obscure" (page 8), wrote words on poor quality paper on the street, and engraved the character "怨 grudge" on the flag. She left a detailed process of the struggle, the "Tide Diary," in Fish of Heaven, while at the same time wandering us into the illusion that she lived. The act and logic of struggle, the love for the young people she met in Tokyo, the daily faces of the patients, the feeling of lost in malicious intent towards the patients and her, and poems. Please take a look at the records of the Associations to Indict, Michiko Ishimure, and the people of Minamata who fought by acts and words, with Fish of Heaven. This exhibition will show the words of leaflets written from multiple oppositional positions and think about what the words she was dealing with at that time and what the words were for the people of Minamata.
* The Minamata disease struggle developed by a large number of actors is a big theme and cannot be fully discussed in this exhibition. This exhibition only shows one aspect, and we will continue to introduce the theme from various angles using the materials in our collection.