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Pollution and the Struggle for Democracy in Postwar Japan

Timothy S. George

ISBN 9780674007857

Publication date: 03/21/2002

Nearly forty years after the outbreak of the “Minamata Disease,” it remains one of the most horrific examples of environmental poisoning. Based on primary documents and interviews, this book describes three rounds of responses to this incidence of mercury poisoning, focusing on the efforts of its victims and their supporters, particularly the activities of grassroots movements and popular campaigns, to secure redress.

Timothy S. George argues that Japan’s postwar democracy is ad hoc, fragile, and dependent on definition through citizen action and that the redress effort is exemplary of the great changes in the second and third postwar decades that redefined democracy in Japan.


  • This is the first account, in any language, which covers the controversies surrounding the infamous mercury poisoning in Minamata in southern Kyushu over the time frame of ninety years, from the founding of the factory which caused the pollution, up to the settlement for compensation reached in 1995… George’s monograph provides an excellent point of departure for further inquiries.

    —Anja Osiander, Social Science Journal


  • Timothy S. George is Professor of History at the University of Rhode Island.

Book Details

  • 424 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center