Sadly what tends to happen when you:re very thin on time and in a hurry, you tend to default into an optimisation mode by shutting down all the sensory functions and basically end up churning out half-baked thoughts that would induce a yawn, or at worst compel them to mirror the same response. I wondered whether I should have written the past couple of posts at all: they are so factual, dry and so uninspiring coming from someone who:s supposed to be passionate (for the lack of a more appropriate adjective) about her research.

Now if you thought that was a little bit pensive, I guess it should be considered fairly normal, after spending the whole day learning about Minamata disease and the hardship the whole city had gone through since the 1950s. It was pretty moving listening to the locals: stories, and I had to hold back tears at several moments during the day. And I somehow ended up with two jars of marmalade in my daypack.

The morning got off to a pretty good start – I slept really well because we moved to a much more modest and compact accommodation (I must admit I was a little bit overwhelmed staying in a 7 star hotel in Tokyo, not only because it was too fancy, but because the room was ginormous and it wasn:t cozy to sleep in such a large open space); It might actually have been the flat pillow I had, because I don:t sleep very well with a high pillow. It:s a shame I can:t upload images of cute little bathroom and the windows that are built on the inside like cupboard doors. We had a traditional Japanese breakfast, and by fourth day I was still having a bit of issue trying to explain to everyone how I was an ovo-lacto-avian-piscean vegetarian, therefore I could eat just about everything there. The organisers kept trying to pull me into a :vegetarian only: table, and I kept resisting because I didn:t want to miss out on their great fish.

However, I was beginning to regret my decision during the 1 and 1/2 hour lecture given by the former mayor of Minamata city, Mr. Yoshii, who told us about all about the side effects of mercury and the 16 different types of congenital diseases that the locals carried due to consuming fish from the sea polluted with industrial waste that had been discharged into the water by Chisso corporation since 1902. I thought about the salmon I had for breakfast and I started to feel a little lump developing in my chest which made me want to feel like throwing up… Then Mr Yoshii said that the amount of mercury in the fish in Minamata was pretty much zero and that when you test the strands of hair, apparently people in Tokyo has a higher level of toxins than there. `Enjoy the fish`, said Mr Yoshii… and I felt the little lump in my chest begin to disappear.

Mr. Yoshii is quite famous in Japan for being the first politician to publically apologising to the victims of industrial pollution and to turn Minamata Japan:s most environmentally sustainable city. Interestingly his source of inspiration was exactly the same as mine: Jaime Lerner:s Curitiba. Mr. Yoshii spoke with such grace and enthusiasm and all of us felt so honoured to have him share his precious time. He seemed like the perfect politician in the sense that he seemed nothing like a politician. He used his position and influence to mobilise the community to regain integrity, bring hope, justice, voice and hope. I did ask him one last question: Would he have been able to change Minamata to the same extent that he had, had he not become a politician? To this he chuckled and replied: without me, Minamata would have been a better city today!

What a hero.


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