Contents - Previous - Next

This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at

III. Contents

The first section of this compilation is devoted to an in-depth probe into the Ashio copper-mine situation, which at the beginning of the Meiji period created one of the most devastating environmental catastrophes ever visited upon the nation, the ill-effects of which still persist to the present day. The situation surrounding Ashio is typical of the pollution problems that existed in the pre-Second World War period, and the case-study brings the reader up to the present time. The second section outlines Japan's economic development after the Second World War, with the Morinaga arsenic milk, Minamata disease, Kochi Pulp, and Miike coal-mine explosion cases being probed as examples of pollution in that period. The final section deals with the sociological aspects of environmental destruction as manifested in labour-related problems and workplace-induced occupational hazards and diseases. The problems coalescing around the twin foci of occupational hazards and environmental destruction are in reality two sides of the same coin. The primary points of departure in relation to issues of environmental destruction is a need to recognize the damage done. Our research efforts have not paid enough attention to the specific damage to compromised life-support systems, especially in terms of those suffering from particular environmental problems, and how this suffering manifests itself; therefore, one section of this compilation deals specifically with these issues.

For purposes of clarity these case-studies are all located historically, within designated time-frames, and each section includes reference material for further study.


Iijima, N. Kogai, rosai, shokugyoubyou nenpyou [Historical Table on Pollution, Industrial Accidents, and Occupational Disease in Japan]. Kogai Taisaku Gijutsu Doyukai, 1978.

Shoji, H., and K. Miyamoto. Nihon no kogai [Pollution in Japan]. Iwanami Shoten, 1975.

Tsuru, S. Sekai no kogai chizu. [Pollution Map of the World]. Iwanami Shoten, 1977. Ui, J. Kogai genron [Principles of Pollution]. Aki Shobo, 1971.

Chronological Chart


Social background

Ashio copper-mine issue

Minamata disease

1877   Furukawa opens Ashio copper mine  
1890   Hydro-power generation  
    Shozo Tanaka raises question in the Diet  
  Sino-Japanese War First Poisons Survey Committee Out-of-court negotiation  
1900 Second Poisons Survey Committee Kawamata Incident  
  Russo-Japanese War Yanaka villagers evacuated by force Nippon Chisso Minamata plant opens
10 First World War Shozo Tanaka dies  
20   Labour union organized  
    Ashio labour-management dispute Ammonia synthesis
    Poison catchment dam constructed Chosen (Korea) Chisso
30   Electric dust-collector installed Acetate synthesis
    Catchment dam overflows  
1940 Second World War Labour union disbanded Vinyl chloride
1945     Air-raid damage/Nippon Chisso disbanded
  Priority production system Association for Halting Copper Production formed Acetaldehyde production restarted
  New Constitution Typhoon Katherin  
  Eugenic Protection Law Typhoon Kitty  
      Vinyl chloride production restarted
1950 Korean Issue: red purge    
  US-Japan Security Treaty; peace treaty with allied countries    
  May Day Incident Association for Halting Copper Production disbanded Octanol production starts
  Korean Issue truce   DOP production starts
    Kotaki mine closed  
1955 Conservative panics formed into a single body Automatic blast furnace introduced; production of sulphuric acid starts Minamata disease discovered
  Honshu Paper Edogawa factory incident Gengorozawa retention basin bursts  
  Water Quality and Factory Association for Eradicating Copper Poisoning  
  Discharge Control Law    
    Investigation based on the Water Quality Law starts Organic mercury discovered
1960 Student movement against the revision of the US-Japan   Fishermen's riot
  Security Treaty: Ikeda cabinet   Tamiya research group
  High-growth policy adopted by the government   Kumamoto identifies methyl mercury
  Cadmium theory for Itai-itai   Plant management confirms involvement of methyl
  Major energy source switches from coal to oil   Long strike
  Mishima-Numazu petrochemical complex project    
  Tokyo Olympics    
1965     Second Minamata disease
  Pollution Control Ordinance   Niigata civil action
  Kanemi oil poisoning case Water pollutants' standard established Government's public acknowledgement
  Revised Integrated National Development Plan (INDP)   First Minamata civil court suit
1970 Special Diet session on pollution problems Cadmium contamination discovered Reparations
      Environment Agency decision Sitdown strike at head office
  Mercury and PCB contamination of coastal areas Oil crisis Ashio cooper mine closed Negotiation between Niigata group and Showa Denko
      Court decision on the first civil suit
    Arbitration by EDCC (Environmental Dispute Co-ordination Committee) Third Minamata disease
1975 Exhaust gas control relaxed Pollution Control Agreement Remarcs about non-genuine victims
  INDP III    
  NOx regulation relaxed Agreement on specific issues Environment Agency vice-minister issues guidelines
      Court decision on the second civil suit
1980 Overwhelming victory of Liberal Democratic Party   Indictment of Kawamoto dismissed
  Partial cancellation of Shibushi National Park area designation   Minamata victims, training centre established

Arsenic milk poisoning

Miike coal-mine explosion

Kochi Pulp

  Mitsui purchases Miike coal mine  
  Mitsui Mining Company founded  
Morinaga Seika (parent company of Morinaga Milk) founded Elelectric blasting cap introduced  
  Electric trolley begins to haul out coal  
  Koppers coke oven introduced in Japanese mines  
Condensed milk division established Production peak in the pre-Second World War period  
Morinaga Milk founded Miike coal mine labour union formed  
    Kochi Pulp project starts
National Baby Contest Hinged bar system introduced in Japanese coal mines Construction or Kochi Pulp
    Construction suspended due to shortage of funds
    Plant operation starts
    Air and water contamination begins
    Fishermen's co-operative receives cash donation
Tokushima plant starts adding sodium phosphate   Fishermen plan opposition activities
Arsenic milk poisoning starts Mitsui Mining adopts Ten-year Plan for company rebuilding  
Zenkyo dissolved Coal-planer introduced in Japanese mines New plant constructed in Iyo-Mishima
    Urado Bay reclamation plan
    Merged with Daio Pulp
  Mitsui Miike miners' strike Urado Bay reclamation plan adopted
    Part of Kochi Pulp separated and becomes Nishi Nippon
    Urado Bay Protection Citizens' group established
  Mine explosion  
  Coal mines in Chikuho area shut down in rapid succession  
  Fire breaks out within the mine Hunger strike demanding purification of Enoguchi River
Visit after 14 years
(rediscovery of victims)
    Typhoon No 10/reclamation work stops
    Cement-plugging incident
    Plant closed
Hikari Foundation established   Court decision on cement-plugging incident

Contents - Previous - Next