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January 4, 2019 - Obscure Kyushu : Minamata
For the afternoon of my sixth day in Japan, I visited the small town of Minamata which unfortunately is known after a disease caused by Mercury poisoning which is named after the town.
My first stop was the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum which is free to enter and shows the story of how everything occurred. It's well worth visiting this museum but I would not bring kids probably under the age of 10 as some of the photos can be a little graphic. It's also helpful to go to the main entrance where they can give you an English booklet and the encourage you to watch a 17 minute informative video on the disease which looks as though it was made 20 years ago but has data from 2014???
The Minamata Disease memorial - with the metal balls representing the mercury. Note that it's a bit difficult to find if you don't look at the maps.
The environmental centre is located opposite the museum but is unfortunately going through a major restoration until early April. The bottom floor is still open though.
All of these locations are found within an ecopark which is reclaimed land where the mercury sludge used to be. There are also numerous parks which can be viewed, including a large rose garden, parks and the like.
My favourite of the gardens was the Bamboo garden which is surprisingly large. To put it simple - it's a large Japanese garden with bamboo from different parts of the world.
There were a couple of other locations I was hoping to visit, but they were not open today. This included another Minamata Disease Museum (run by a charity) which is in the middle of no-where along a small road and the Soho and Raka Museum. I even went to a shrine on an island but the bridge (the only way onto the island) is under repairs until April! But then again, I came to this location to learn about what happens when greed and profit are more important than health. For tomorrow, I'll be visiting some of the outlying sites in Kumamoto City.
Minamata Disease Website (English): http://www.minamata195651.jp/guide_en.html#2
Minamata Disease Museum (English): https://www.minamatadiseasemuseum.net