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Coal Pits in the Mid-Meiji Era (1868-1912): Punching Rod
December 1694

Meiji Chuki no Yama: Tsukinomi
[Coal Pits in the Mid-Meiji Era (1868-1912): Punching Rod]
38.0 x 54.3 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

This painting shows miners laying a track for mine cars on the bottom of the heading of a level for a thin coal bed. In order to level and lay a track on it (kanekata ni suru), the bottom must be cut 1 meter or more deep. The coalface was driven forward during the second shift work. The pair of workers cut the 8-shaku-wide (about 240-cm-wide) bottom step by step every other day and they had to drill deep blast-holes for that purpose. They drilled these holes with an about-3-meter-long punching rod of 7/8-inch round iron with a steel tip.
There were no special kusshinfus (driving men) in the Meiji era and skilled miners worked as driving men. They were considerably expert miners and also called gezainins [ex-convicts; some miners were real ex-convicts, but most of them were not].
The blast-holes were sometimes drilled as deep as 6 shaku (about 180 cm) by two people. Three or four pieces of dynamite, a detonator, and a fuse about 75 centimeters long were usually used for a blasting. It was safer for the miners to make the fuse longer. However, if they did so, the fumes after the blasting remained for a very long time, because underground slopes and levels were not well ventilated.
As shown in the inset, the dynamite at the right side was inserted into the hole after it was bound to a thin bamboo about 2 meters long and the fuse was ignited beforehand. The dynamite exploded two minutes later. Sometimes the above thin bamboo was found embedded into mine cars after flying as far as 20 meters.

Lyrics of "Gotton Bushi" Song at the Top Left
Oshu Sendai Date Mutsu-no-kami,
nazeni Takao ga kirota yara?
Dokkoi! Gotton!

Why did Takao, the geisha, turn down the proposal
from Lord Date of Mutsu Province in Sendai, Oshu?
Dokkoi! Gotton (Clang)! (Interjected chants)

[Translator's Notes: The geisha in this song was one of the three famous legendary geishas, Courtesan (Tayu) Takao II who reportedly lived around 1700.]

Words in the Inset
take: bamboo
maito: dynamite


Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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