Kumamoto City is the capital of Kumamoto prefecture, located in the center of Kyushu Island in far western Japan. It has one of the finest preserved castles in all of Japan; the 400 year-old Kumamoto Castle as well as the strikingly beautiful Edo- era Suizenji Jojuen Japanese garden. Also, within a two hour train ride of Kumamoto is one of the largest, most active volcanoes in the world called Mount Aso.
Not far from Kumamoto City is the city of Minamata. In 1956, a tragedy began to unfold when mercury began to be released in industrial waste water from the Chisso Corporation chemical factory. This resulted in shellfish and fish absorbing the mercury that was then transferred to humans while consuming fish in their diet and led to thousands of people being poisoned. This condition is now called Minamata disease, a neurological syndrome which has caused a variety of disabilities from paralysis to the loss of sight and hearing as well as death. Today, especially with the efforts of the National Institute for Minamata Disease, Minamata city is at the forefront in a global effort to promote industrial development in the world that coexists in harmony with nature.