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Miamata Japan Street View
Minamata Japan Street View

Reading about the Minamata disease case in Japan seems eerily the same as reading about Fukushima. They seem to have taken from the Minamata disease playbook for Fukushima.

More bizarrely, concerns about the disease started in April and May of 1956, and the current Japanese PM’s grandfather became PM shortly thereafter:
To investigate the epidemic, the city government and various medical practitioners formed the Strange Disease Countermeasures Committee (奇病対策委員会 Kibyō Taisaku Iinkai?) at the end of May 1956,” then current PM Shinzo Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, became Prime Minister in January of 1957, just as his grandson took over shortly after the Fukushima disaster, end of 2012.

For instance, they pretended to be cleaning the water, when they apparently knew that the filtration system did not work and continued to discharge contaminated water, while pretending it was filtered. The only difference is that perhaps for Fukushima they may have really sometimes thought that the filters were working. Additionally, the industrialists and government funded research into other causes of the disease.
Read about the collaboration between government and industry via the Japanese http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_Commerce_and_Industry, which became the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_International_Trade_and_Industry, (MITI), which became the METI, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_Economy,_Trade_and_Industry, which includes the nuclear industry.

Who was Abe’s grandfather, who was PM during critical early stages of the Minamata crisis? He was in office from 31 January 1957 – 19 July 1960 (Acting until 25 February 1957): “Nobusuke Kishi (岸 信介 Kishi Nobusuke?, 13 November 1896 – 7 August 1987) was a Japanese politician and the 56th and 57th Prime Minister of Japan from 25 February 1957 to 12 June 1958, and from then to 19 July 1960. Kishi was called Shōwa no yōkai (昭和の妖怪 or ‘the Shōwa era monster/devil’).

Kishi attended Tokyo Imperial University (now the University of Tokyo) and entered the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 1920. In 1935, he became one of the top officials involved in the industrial development of Manchukuo, where he was later accused of exploiting Chinese forced labor. Prime Minister Hideki Tōjō, himself a veteran of the Manchurian campaign, appointed Kishi Minister of Munitions in 1941, and he held this position until Japan’s surrender in 1945. He was also elected to the Lower House of the Diet of Japan in 1942.

As with other members of the former Japanese government, Kishi was held at Sugamo Prison as a ‘Class A’ war crimes suspect by the order of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. Unlike Tōjō (and several other cabinet members), however, Kishi was released in 1948 and was never indicted or tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. However, he remained legally prohibited from entering public affairs because of the Allied occupation’s purge of members of the old regime“. Read more and references here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobusuke_Kishi

Chisso knew of the environmental damage caused by its wastewater and was well aware that it was the prime suspect in the Minamata disease investigation. Despite this, from September 1958, instead of discharging its waste into Hyakken Harbour (the focus of investigation and source of original contamination), it discharged wastewater directly into Minamata River. The immediate effect was the death of fish at the mouth of the river, and from that point on new Minamata disease victims began to appear in other fishing villages up and down the coast of the Shiranui Sea, as the pollution spread over an even greater area.[18]

Chisso failed to co-operate with the investigation team from Kumamoto University. It withheld information on its industrial processes, leaving researchers to speculate what products the factory was producing and by what methods.[19] The Chisso factory’s hospital director, Hajime Hosokawa, established a laboratory in the research division of the plant to carry out his own experiments into Minamata disease in July 1959. Food to which factory wastewater had been added was fed to healthy cats. Seventy-eight days into the experiment cat 400 exhibited symptoms of Minamata disease and pathological examinations confirmed a diagnosis of organic mercury poisoning. The company did not reveal these significant results to the investigators and ordered Hosokawa to stop his research.[20]

In an attempt to undermine Kumamoto University researchers’ organic mercury theory, Chisso and other parties with a vested interest that the factory remain open (including the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and the Japan Chemical Industry Association) funded research into alternative causes of the disease, other than its own waste.
….
Polluting wastewater had damaged the fisheries around Minamata ever since the opening of the Chisso factory in 1908…. Since the change of route of wastewater output in 1958, pollution had spread up and down the Shiranui Sea, damaging fisheries there too. Emboldened by the success of the small Minamata cooperative, the Kumamoto Prefectural Alliance of Fishing Cooperatives also decided to seek compensation from Chisso.

On October 21, 1959, Chisso was ordered by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to switch back its wastewater drainage from the Minamata River to Hyakken Harbour and to speed up the installation of wastewater treatment systems at the factory. Chisso installed a Cyclator purification system on December 19, 1959, and opened it with a special ceremony. Chisso’s president Kiichi Yoshioka drank a glass of water supposedly treated through the Cyclator to demonstrate that it was safe. In fact, the wastewater from the acetaldehyde plant, which the company knew still contained mercury and led to Minamata disease when fed to cats, was not treated through the Cyclator at the time. Testimony at a later Niigata Minamata disease trial proved that Chisso knew the Cyclator to be completely ineffective: “…the purification tank was installed as a social solution and did nothing to remove organic mercury.”[22]

The deception was successful and almost all parties involved in Minamata disease were duped into believing that the factory’s wastewater had been made safe from December 1959 onward. This widespread assumption meant that doctors were not expecting new patients to appear, resulting in numerous problems in the years to follow, as the pollution continued. In most people’s minds, the issue of Minamata disease had been resolved.

Despite the almost universal assumption to the contrary, the wastewater treatment facilities installed in December 1959 had no effect on the level of organic mercury being released into the Shiranui Sea. The pollution and the disease it caused continued to spread“. Entire article and references here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamata_disease
See related: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_hatter_disease

More recently, some Japanese industries have been trying to evade mercury rules, which were agreed under the previous government:
Japan industry fights ‘Minamata’ costs as mercury trade ban looms“Posted:Mon, 25 Aug 2014 21:15:19 GMT http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/environment/~3/1gm_i_D1p40/story01.htm