The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Yama Living

Pit Workers in the Old Days: Mine Store
April 1965

Mukashi no Yamabito: Urikamba
[Pit Workers in the Old Days: Mine Store]
38.1 x 54.4 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

Text on the Right Side
The mine store (urikamba) was called a bumpaisho in the late Meiji era (1868-1912). The mine store in each coal pit run by Nittetsu [Japan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd.; governmental Yahata Ironworks at that time] was called a kobaikai. Today the mine store is called a haikyusho. Though those stores in pits owned by Mr. A were directly run by him, they sold their goods at prices not lower than market prices. The mine store in Furukawa Shimoyamada Coal Pit was run by their o-naya boardinghouse.
The manager of the urikamba sold their rice by measuring it with his cunning skill. He poured less rice than normal into his square measure masu. Though 1 sho (1.8 liters) of rice normally consists of 64,827 grains of rice, he somehow filled the same measure with about 60,000 grains with skill acquired through daily training. They said that the rice he measured looked as if it were dancing. The homemaker would find the rice measured right in front of her to be lessened by about 1/20 of the normal quantity and would complain that the manager's measurement was wrong. However, he would not sell the rice to her if she did not stop complaining, and she had to finally accept his measurement.
There was no other rice retailer near the pit, and no rice retailer would sell their rice for mine tokens if there were. The mine store did not sell more rice than the rice in 1-sho or 5-go (0.9 liter) masu at one time. Even if they sold more rice than 1 sho at one time, the pit worker's family could not afford to buy so much rice. (The manager always trained his measurement skill at his leisure.)
In 1899, 1 sho of rice was sold at 10 sen (0.1 yen), but the price rose to 12 sen and the homemakers would complain about it. Also a Japanese rice wine (sake) including more water than unprocessed sake was sold at the price as high as 35 sen (0.35 yen) per sho.
A pack of 10 cigarettes named Hero and a pipe cost 3 sen 5 rin (0.035 yen) and it was comparatively expensive. Most tobaccos sold at the mine store were Kokubu and Tengu and they cost 3 sen (0.03 yen) for 4 momme (15 g). There were other cigarettes named Luna and Sunrise but they were not sold at the mine store.

The homemaker's complaint
"Your measurement is utterly wrong."

Text on the Left Side
The urikamba sold rice, sake, soy sauce, cooking oil, soy bean paste, salt, tobaccos and cigarettes, soap, Japanese face towels, tea, sugar, cloths, handles for pickaxes, ebijokes (bamboo winnows), ganzumes (four-blade rakes), warajis (straw sandals), wire, and other commodities. Outside vendors and other authorized retailers could not sell the above goods, only things, such as fresh fish, vegetables, confectionaries, fruits, noodles, etc. Unauthorized soy sauce retailers often visited the coal pit and were severely scolded by the bosses of the pit.
The mine stores in the pits run by Mr. A stopped selling liquors after the whistle blow at 8:00 p.m. regardless of seasons and the workers in the pits could not serve their guests with sake in the evening.

Lettering on the Bill
Tabako: Cigarette
Hiro: Hero; brand name of a cigarette
Tsubame Hamigaki: brand name of toothpaste
Miyako no Hana Sekken: brand name of soap

Lettering on the Labels on the Barrels
Seishu: (Refined) Sake

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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