Minamata City (水俣) in southern Kumamoto Prefecture gained worldwide fame in the 1950s and 1960s through a mercury poisoning disaster, caused by a local factory's discharge of poisonous wastewater into Minamata Bay.
Thousands of local inhabitants fell victim to the poisoning, and the disease caused by mercury poisoning became globally known as the Minamata Disease, named after the city where it had first been discovered.
In recent decades, Minamata has been building on its negative history in a positive way and established itself as an environmental model city, promoting a wide range of recycling and environmental programs. The city is welcoming school and study tours from across Japan and the world for the study of environmental problems.
Home to about 30,000 people, Minamata is beautifully located along the coast of the Shiranui Sea with views onto the Amakusa Islands. Two hot spring resorts are located within the municipal limits of Minamata: mountainous Yunotsuru Onsen and coastal Yunoko Onsen.