The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Omens, Superstitions, Taboos

The Raccoon Dog or Ujina in the Pit in the Middle of the Meiji Era (1968-1912)
1964 - 1967

Meiji Chuki Konai no Tanuki/Ujina
[The Raccoon Dog or Ujina in the Pit in the Middle of the Meiji Era (1968-1912)]
38.2 x 54.4 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

Text on the Right Side
There was a raccoon dog in a small faraway coal pit in the mountains. Though the inside of the pit was dark, it did not appear there in the daytime. It appeared during a gloomy and lonely hour after midnight when only a few workers were there, and played tricks on them.
During the summer of 1899, I heard the mining sound made by a raccoon dog on the right side of the No. 2 level of K Coal Pit. The duplicated sound was as if it were from a distant coalface. It sounded just like the sound made by a real miner. I heard the sound sixty-six years ago, but I cannot forget it even now (as of 1965). I heard the same sound a few times. The elders said that if we strained our ears, the sound of the pickax being driven and dragged did not sound metallic and lacked reverberations.

Text at the Top
It is said that if the raccoon dog hit a coalface with its tail, it sounded like it was mining coal. It is also said that it could fabricate the sounds of roof-falls, running water, walking miners and a mine car being pushed. However, they say that the raccoon dog could not fabricate the sound of chains on mine cars, and it bothered to take a chain from a mine car and dragged it.
It is said that it changed itself into a pillar when it was cornered by miners underground, but that the pillar was upside down while normal pillars were erected on their smaller ends. It is said that the pillar had no wedge (kamisashi) on its top and that the raccoon dog's hands and feet were changed into knots.
At K Coal Pit, nobody could catch or see any raccoon dogs. Their furs were used as the piston packing of bellows which smiths used. The smith working at the pit wanted to get one of their furs, but it was in vain. He said to me with a smile, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch!"
I also wanted to see a raccoon dog's testicles which, they say, are as large as an eight-tatami room.
They are like wind or gas and we cannot see them.

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndr

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