The small town of Minamata is infamous for the industrial disease named after the city. This disease resulted from having ingested methyl mercury, a substance released for more than three decades by a factory owned by the Chisso Corporation. Upon entering the human body, mercury affects the nervous system, resulting in paralysis, and often leading to a slow death. Examining how such violence was inflicted on human beings and on the environment involves a complex array of economic, environmental, and sociocultural issues, all revolving around the notions of justice and responsibility. This article analyzes the local residents’ responses to the irreparable damage done to them, focusing in particular on the thoughts and actions put forward by Ogata Masato and a group called Hongan no kai
, who chose to carve bodhisattva statues. Investigating the victims’ religiosity, the author argues that the praxis put forward by the Minamata people resonates with the perspective articulated by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. After having witnessed how justice had been exhausted and their case had been lost in the Japanese legal system, the victims showed their resilience in coming up with original responses, which also offer valuable insight into current discussions centered on environmental ethics.
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