The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Watercolor: All Genres

Miners Entering the Pit in a Small Colliery Called a Kantera Yama around 1897 to 1907
1964 - 1967

Meiji San-Shijunen Nyuko Sugata Saitanfu Kantera Yama
[Miners Entering the Pit in a Small Colliery Called a Kantera Yama around 1897 to 1907]
38.0 x 54.2 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

Three whistle blows at 3:00 in the morning told miners the time to enter the pit. However, some miners entered the pit earlier and others entered it later than the call because the miners in small coal pits (yama) called kantera yamas using oil lamps in mining coal need not be so punctual. Another reason was because each coalface was not mined in cooperation with more than one pair of miners, though shift work was adopted, but was allotted to each pair. It was also advantageous to mine by driving lots of single coalfaces.
It was only pairs (hitosaki) of newlyweds, siblings, or members of different families that entered their pit together as hewers (sakiyama) and helpers (atoyama). Women helpers with their families entered their pit later than their husbands as hewers because coal was not mined very much in one or two hours while hewers cut the soft parts of their coalfaces.
Small pits in the old days also had manway slopes but they were so insufficient in number that most of them were connected to main slopes after they went down one or two hundred meters. We were sometimes scared to death to meet mine cars reversing out of control in the main slope.
The shown hewer is shouldering pickaxes (tsurubashi), holding a lamp in his hand and wearing a square tin tobacco case called a tonkotsu on his waist belt. The helper is holding their lunch pails, a towing rope called a karui, tallies called sumifudas, and so on.

Lyrics of "Gotton Bushi" Song at the Bottom Left
Anata ichiban washa nibankata,
agari sagari de au bakari.

You work day and I work night,
and we only see each other in the slope,
descending or ascending it.
Gotton (Clang)! (Interjected chant)

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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