A Sustainable Well-Being Initiative: Social Divisions and the Recovery Process in Minamata, Japan
In Japan, national development strategy has been based on industrial development. Over the last 140 years Japan has shifted its economic structure from agriculture to industry and service sectors. However, this strategy has incurred costs as well as benefits. From the late 1950s to the 1980s, Minamata City, a small city in Kyushu, suffered the worst industrial pollution case caused by organic mercury in the world. Many residents came down with Minamata disease, a severe neurological syndrome, which ruined their lives socially, economically, and culturally, and created pervasive social divisions among local residents as well as discrimination by people outside the city. However, in 2008, Minamata City was chosen as one of the six leading environmental model cities in Japan. This chapter focuses on this dramatic turnaround by focusing on keys critical for this change: local leadership, government policy, citizen’s actions, and Jimotogaku (a neighborhood study method).
KeywordsLocal People High Economic Growth Organic Mercury Social Division Retail Shop
My heartfelt appreciation goes to Mr. Masazumi Yoshii and Mr. Tetsuro Yoshimoto whose inspiring community ideas and actions were of inestimable value for my study. I am also indebted to Ms. Etsuko Numata whose kindness made an enormous contribution to my work. Finally, I would like to thank JSPS (KAKENHI 20530436) for a grant that made it possible to complete this study.
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