The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Yama Living

Mother and Children Entering the Pit with Lamps in Hands
1964 - 1967

Kantera o Sagete Nyuko Suru Boshi
[Mother and Children Entering the Pit with Lamps in Hands]
38.2 x 54.0 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

Around 1899, polished rice cost 10 sen (0.1 yen) per sho (1.4 kg).
Her husband sakiyama (hewer) already entered the pit and is mining coal at his kiriha (coalface). The wife atoyama (helper), after finishing her household chores, is descending the mine slope, taking care so that she and her children do not slip. She is carrying lunch pails for the four of them, a chagame (tin canteen), sumifudas (tallies to be attached to their mine cars) and a karui (a rope for towing a coal sled) apportioned between her front and back. She is followed by her little son younger than 10 years of age, who is shouldering his younger sibling. The mother could shoulder and carry her younger child more safely than her son can. However, in this case, the younger child could hit his/her head against the low ceiling of the tunnel.
The cost for hiring a babysitter was 10 sen (0.1 yen) with an additional 3 or 4 sen (0.03 or 0.04 yen) as a tip which most of the miners' families could not afford to pay. That is why elder children like this had to be absent from school temporarily or for a long term to take care of their younger siblings.
In the end of the Meiji era, some middle and large-scale coal pits (yama) had yojiins or takujishos (day nurseries).

Lyrics of "Gotton Bushi" Song at the Top Left
Nanatsu yatsu kara kantera sagete
konai sagaru mo oya no bachi.

It's because of my parents' fault that I had to work underground
with a lamp in hand when I was seven or eight.
Gotton (Clang)! (Interjected chant)

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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