The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Omens, Superstitions, Taboos

The Coal Pit and the Fox (Doctors and Visitors)
1964 - 1967

Yama to Kitsune (Ishi to Mimaikyaku)
[The Coal Pit and the Fox (Doctors and Visitors)]
38.0 x 54.0 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

In spring of 1900, a miner working for K Coal Pit (Aso Kamimio Coal Pit which started mining coal [shibahaguri shita] in 1898 in today's Iizuka City [former Kasamatsu Village until 1909]) got badly burned in a gas explosion (gasuke) underground and met with the strangest incident when he was recuperating at his home.
One night, a cloud of visitors including two doctors suddenly piled into his house.
His wife was so tired of taking care of her husband in serious condition that she supposedly thought they were mine leaders, officers or interested persons. The twenty or more visitors included women, a few of whom held babies in their arms. The tiny room of four and a half tatami was crowded with the visitors, who politely consoled and comforted the wife and her family. After a while, the doctors began to slowly take off the patient's bandages. The patient sometimes screamed in pain. The visitors were peeling off his skin, telling him to endure the pain for some time to cure his burn. After a long time, they completely peeled off his skin and vanished away like a puff of smoke before dawn.
Then, the patient's body was already as cold as ice and he was dead. His wife was astonished at his death and cried and screamed in a loud voice. Her neighbors gathered in great surprise. Many people including the pit director and doctors immediately hurried to her house, hearing the news. The patient was stripped naked and his body was so completely skinned that nobody could look him straight in the eyes. The people in the pit considered this to be the work of wild foxes and stomped their feet with frustration, but they did not know how to capture the foxes because the demons were invisible. Ah, what a miserable family! The wife had poor eyesight and her twenty-year old brother in law was a blind man. The only other family member was a four-year old girl. The wicked foxes seemed to take advantage of the dimness of their room lit only by an oil lamp. How hateful the enemy foxes were! People there glared at the surrounding mountains, sighed and shed tears of regret for a long time. This is a miserable story about a man who was killed by animals.
K Coal Pit was not located deep in a mountain but was surrounded by forests and many foxes lived there. (At that time Western Europe was prosperously living in twentieth century civilization.) It smells fishy that in those days a grotesque incident like this occurred in a pit where there were many densely populated row houses, but it is a true story that I think I must describe here. They say foxes like eating burnt skins or pockmarks.

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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