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The Basket Coal Sled in the First Half and the Middle of the Meiji Era (1868-1912)
1964 - 1967

Meiji Kami-chuki Bara Sura
[The Basket Coal Sled in the First Half and the Middle of the Meiji Era (1868-1912)]
38.2 x 54.4 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

The bara sura was a sled with an elliptical bamboo basket on it. Its capacity was about 120 kg of coal. The sled had two metal skids with a narrow space between them. The space between the two skids was about 10 mm narrower in the front than in the rear to make it easier for the carrier to pull the sura.
In mining by tanukibori (badger-hole mining: mining coal near the surface without using many supports and pillars), coal was once loaded into bamboo baskets with no sled (suebara). In both cases, coal had to be unloaded once at a place to store it until it was loaded into mine cars and this process was called kabudashi.
It was impossible for miners to manually pull up a loaded sura when the uphill angle (bangayari) exceeded 12 or 13 degrees.

Lyrics of "Gotton Bushi" Song at the Left
Karatsu gezainin no sura hiku sugata
Edo no ekaki mo kakyakiranu.

Even painters in Edo (the old name of Tokyo) can't paint
us gezainins from Karatsu towing suras.
Gotton (Clang)! (Interjected chant)

[Translator's Notes: Gezainin stands for ex-convict. Some miners were real ex-convicts but other miners sometimes humbly called themselves this.]

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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