Minamata is a small industrial town situated near the southwest coast of Kyushu, the most southerly of the three main islands of Japan. A number of villages are located on or near a neighboring bay. Into this bay flows the effluent from a large fertilizer factory. Between 1953 and 1956 a mysterious nervous disease affected the fishing community living near the bay. The outbreak was investigated by a number of departments of Kumamoto University, and the results were published in 1957, in Japanese in two supplements of the Journal of the Kumamoto Medical Society. The following brief account is taken from a recent article, summarizing the Japanese accounts of the outbreak (McAlpine and Araki1).
Between November, 1953, and December, 1956, a total of 56 persons living on or near Minamata Bay were affected by a neurological illness characterized by an acute or a subacute onset of numbness and cerebellar signs.