The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Yama Visitors

The Fish Vendor Who Visited the Pit (Yama) away from the Town around 1904
October 1965

Meiji Sanju Shichinen Zengo Hekichi Yama no Sakana Gyoshonin
[The Fish Vendor Who Visited the Pit (Yama) away from the Town around 1904]
38.0 x 53.8 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

(There was no fish shop in the pit.) This painting shows a scene at San-nai Coal Pit.
Matsu-san from Kobukuro was famous for the smelly salted whale meat which he vended every summer. It was about 6 kilometers from Kobukuro to San-nai Coal Pit if he took a short cut by using the mountain road. (San-nai Coal Pit was opened in 1896 and closed in 1910, and it was run by Takichi Aso. It was located to the west of Route 201 which runs through Kasamatsu-toge Pass to Tagawa, and was in the same area as today's Aso Farm.) The people at that time could not eat fresh salt water fish in summer except salted or dried ones because there was no means to refrigerate fish and it took much time to transport it. That is why everyone in the pit went on buying Matsu-san's smelly whale meat every summer. His whale meat looked as if the clay and salt kneaded together, and it still smelled and tasted salty and unappetizing even after it was grilled and blanched. However, it sold well because it cost only 10 sen (0.1 yen) or less per kin (160 momme: 600 g) and it was easy to cook as additional food to rice for the pit workers' lunch. Nevertheless, whenever they found something that smelled bad, they said that it smelled like Matsu-san's whale meat. He only sold the whale meat for three or four months during the summer and sold the fresh saltwater fish called buen (unsalted fish) in other seasons.
Miners could catch lots of freshwater fish everywhere there was water, such as small ditches or streams, and they were well supplied with freshwater fish in summer. Lots of pit workers went fishing to the nearby rivers or streams for freshwater fish as soon as they returned from underground. Other than in rivers or streams, there were lots of loaches or small crucian carps in the irrigated rice fields around the pit.

Text at the Bottom Left (Matsu-san's Words)
I'll give you a discount, though it weighs about 170 me (170 momme: 637.5 g)

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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