The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Other work at the yama

Pit Workers in the Old Days: Lazy Miner Requesting the Allotment of an Easy-to-Mine Coalface
April 1965

Mukashi no Yamabito: Kiriha Morai to Namakemono, Sukabura
[Pit Workers in the Old Days: Lazy Miner Requesting the Allotment of an Easy-to-Mine Coalface]
38.1 x 54.4 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

This painting shows a miner negotiating with his boss for the allotment of a new coalface. He is wearing a short working jacket (konaigi), a Japanese face towel as a headband, a pair of straw sandals as well as carrying a lamp in hand and a pickax on his shoulder. Such miners were often seen at small and middle-scale coal pits (yama) in the Meiji era (1868-1912). Most of these miners were directly controlled by their mining company (chokkatsu kofu). However, they usually went to underground stations to personally ask their bosses to allot them good coalfaces because there were no personnel supervisors (hitoguri) among the members of miner groups (o-naya) in small coal pits. The bosses (nayadoryo) of o-nayas worked as agents and entered the pit to do the allotment of coalfaces etc. Few of them were hardworking.
Skillful hewers among miners mined a considerable quantity of coal from unfavorable coalfaces, but hewers born awkward did not efficiently mine coal even from good coalfaces. Therefore, such poor miners frequently asked their bosses to change their coalfaces. They became lazy (sukabura) and hated to work because they could not efficiently mine coal. Additionally, they often entered and exited the pit without working (noson). Miners of this kind would exit the pit without mining coal even if personnel bosses (torishimari or regulator) tried their hardest to send them to the pit. Therefore, personnel bosses remonstrated with underground bosses about such miners, asking why they did not allot coalfaces to the miners and overlooked them exiting the pit. The underground bosses always quarreled with these lazy miners who would enter and try to leave the pit without working, forcing them to turn back.

Text at the Top
Sasabeya: Underground Station

Kofu: Toryo-san, yoka kiriha hitotsu kun-nai. Buzen okure.
Toryo: Hoki de tatakitaosu yona kiriha wa naizo.

Miner: Boss, allot me a good coalface, please. Assign me a Buzen [unknown].
Boss: There's no coalface that you can easily hack through with a broom.

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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