The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
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Single Coalface
June 1966

Itcho Kiriha
[Single Coalface]
38.1 x 54.2 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

This painting shows the single coalface (itcho kiriha) which the hewer (sakiyama) is driving like a wood-borer. At old coal pits (yama), miners removed coal pillars which had been left behind after driving single coalfaces. However, this work was not done by collaboration, but was done by a pair of miners called a hitosaki. This work was rarely done by four workers. The sakiyama tied a face towel around his head as a headband or wrapped his head with it regardless of the thickness of the coal bed. Miners hated wrapping their head, ears, and cheeks with a towel. They could not wrap their ears with it. There were two ways of wrapping the atoyama's head with a towel. One was wrapping all her hair, and the other was wrapping only her topknot. In short, the ways of using a towel depended on if a miner worked at a place where he/she could be caught by coal dust, if he/she hewed, and if he/she was young or old.
The head of the pickax (tsurubashi) was made of iron, and a bit of steel was put on its sharpened tip. A tsurubashi weighed about 1.5 kg and it was impossible for even a strong hewer to use one which weighed more. It had a 91-cm-long (3-shaku-long) handle. Another type of pickax called a ryoto (double-head pickax) was also used. One end of its head could be used as a hammer. It weighed about 2 kilograms. Miners drove small sharp arrow heads or shattered coal with this pickax.

Miners did not use the word "taoru (towel) in the pit in the old days. All the pit workers used Japanese towels called watenuguis. A normal watenugui cost 3 sen and the highest quality article cost 5 sen. Each of them had some kind of pattern printed on it. Those with spotted patterns called mameshiboris were not used when working.

This is a pair of miners during the decade starting from 1897. (Removing coal pillars was called ryuzubiki.)

Lyrics of "Gotton Bushi" Song at the Bottom Left
Tate ba shakusen suware ba yachin,
ayumu sugata ga hichiya yuki.

When she stands, she is up to her ears in debt.
When she sits, she is worrying about how to pay the rent.
Judging by the way she walks, she is going to the pawnshop.
Gotton (Clang)! (Interjected chant)

[Translator's Notes: This is a parody of an old saying describing a beautiful lady, which goes as follows: Tate ba shakuyaku suware ba botan, aruku sugata wa yuri no hana. (She sits and stands a peony and walks a lily.)]

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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