Current Issues of Itai-itai Disease for Sustainable Society - From the Perspective of Commons

Image by @Machiko Nagai

Itai-itai (“It Hurts, It Hurts”) disease is one of the four major pollution-related illnesses in Japan. However, the cause of Itai-itai has a unique background, distinct from the other three pollution-related illnesses. Itai-itai is thought to have first emerged in the 1920s, but was only diagnosed in 1946. During the 1950s-70s, a period of the high growth in the Japanese economy, the number of Itai-itai cases rapidly increased.

The first successful law suit arising from complications due to Itai-itai began in 1968. Much later, in 2013, a victims group and the responsible company, Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co. Ltd., agreed to a settlement which compensated a patient with a kidney disorder caused by cadmium. Itai-itai disease is generally portrayed in Japan as a rare condition that causes bones to weaken leading to breaks. However, more accurately, Itai-itai is a kidney disorder, one symptom of which is a weakening of bone structures.

Even after the 2013 agreement, the true nature of Itai-itai is still contested. Nevertheless, books such as "Itai-itai Disease and Education"(Itai Itai-byo to Kyoiku) published by Noto Shuppanbu have assisted in understanding the true nature of the disease.

This seminar will examine the history Itai-itai disease and contemporary implications, particularly in the context of food safety. Japan has the highest kidney cadmium accumulation levels in the world. Food safety is a problem directly connected with current Japanese public health. This seminar will examine Itai-itai disease as an inheritance from past generations and policies, and help us to understand how to overcome this public health issue.


Speaker: Associate Professor Hiromi Amemiya-Fujimoto

Hiromi is an Associate Professor specialising in Law and Development Studies & Private Law at the University of Toyama, Japan. She has previously worked for the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Embassy of Japan in Tanzania and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Her thesis and research focuses on customary land title and development, with fieldwork conducted in Tanzania, East Africa and Mongolia. In Tanzania she investigated conflicts between land acts newly established by state and local customary rights and in Mongolia she investigated conflicts between land acts newly established by state and peasant rights.

These days Hiromi’s interests extend towards environment and law and development; she has recently written on contemporary issues of Itai-itai disease (which was first certified as a common nuisance in 1960’s).

Hiromi will be at RegNet from 10 October 2016 to 9 October 2017 and will be carrying out comparison studies between different legal traditions with by Veronica Taylor and Miranda Forsyth.

Registration is free and essential on Eventbrite. 

Updated:  27 November 2018/Responsible Officer:  JI Management Group/Page Contact:  Japan Institute