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People at Coal Pits in the Old Days #2: Coal Hewer (Working on a Thin Coalface)
1958 - 1963

Mukashi Yama no Hitobito #2: Sakiyama (Teisotan no Kiriha Saitan)
[People at Coal Pits in the Old Days #2: Coal Hewer (Working on a Thin Coalface)]
20.7 x 29.3 cm Ink Painting

Each coal hewer used his pickax (tsurubashi) with one of his arms on one of his knees (shikiude) in a crouching position when mining coalfaces of thin coal seams. All of the pit workers worked almost naked without wearing even straw sandals. The only things that they wore were a Japanese face towel as a headband and a loincloth. Some of them did not even wear a loincloth.
Slack coal was valueless at that time. In the old days when no dynamite was available, hewers (sakiyamas) were required to be skilled at mining. Therefore, hewers changed their pickaxes when the tips of the heads went even slightly dull. On days when they met with very hard silicified wood (matsuiwa) or continual rock layers (shime) in their coalface, the helper (atoyama) of a hewer often had to go out of the slope during their work, holding some dulled pickaxes on his/her shoulder in order to have them quenched again at smithies.
Note: The hewer first undercut the bottom part of his coalface before cutting off the top part of it.

Lyrics of "Gotton Bushi" Song at the Top
Nobori kurari (kudari) no ishi no me mo shirazu.
Sakiyama san to wa na ga okashii.

If you can't tell if the grain of coal is ascending or descending,
you aren't worthy of the name of sakiyama san (hewer).
Gotton (Clang)! (Interjected chant)

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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