The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Omens, Superstitions, Taboos

People at Coal Pits in the Old Days: Taboos
March 1965

Mukashi no Yamabito: Engi
[People at Coal Pits in the Old Days: Taboos]
38.0 x 54.3 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

It is not strange that miners were very superstitious, thinking of their dangerous underground work. Miners hated deaths and funerals, calling them kuro-fujos [incidents considered unclean (fujo) and related to mourning black (kuro)]. They also hated menstruation, calling it aka-fujo [related to red (aka) blood which was considered unclean]. Childbirth was also considered a fujo, and if a wife gave birth, her husband took three days off.

(1) Inset at the Top Right
Playing a recorder or a flute underground was not allowed. Coal miners reportedly blew bamboo pipes to warn others when accidents or disasters happened. It was the same as using sirens to alert others of an emergency today. Especially whistling was hated most among miners. During ten year period from 1897 to 1907, harmonicas and clarionets [instruments different from clarinets] began to appear in the pits.

(2) Inset at the Bottom Right
Clapping hands underground was also prohibited. It was difficult for miners to discern the difference between the sounds of clapping and wooden wedges breaking.

(3) Inset at the Top Left
Wearing a big cloth covering the top of the head, ears, and cheeks (hoo-kaburi) of a miner was prohibited, because miners could not hear the cracking sounds of wedges (kamisashi) or pillars warning the danger of a roof fall.
(Tattoo on the Miner's Right Upper Arm; dairiki: great power)

(4) Inset at the Bottom Left
Coal miners hated monkeys. It was not because their faces and buttocks were red. "Yama no hito wa 'Saru! Saru!' to ii nasaru to kirai nasaru (The people at the pit hate to call the monkey [saru] a monkey)."
I will write on the topic of the monkey in detail in another picture titled "Monkey Trainer."

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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