The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Other work at the yama

Pit Workers in the Old Days: Robbing Coal Pillars of Coal and Marking Them with Limewater
April 1965

Mukashi no Yamabito: Uwamekuri to Shirofuri
[Pit Workers in the Old Days: Robbing Coal Pillars of Coal and Marking Them with Limewater]
38.2 x 54.2 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

The patrol timetable of underground bosses was generally fixed. Some miners robbed safety coal pillars (hoan tanchu) or main coal pillars (ryuzu) in levels (kanekata) of coal at random, catching the bosses off guard (during the night shift also called the nibankata [the 2nd shift] or the otsukata).
As pits became old, the sides of the feet of coal pillars broke off because of natural rock pressure and cavities about 30 centimeters high were made in their feet. There was so much coal in the cavities that miners could scrape it out with four-blade rakes called ganzumes. Some miners quickly scooped up the coal into their mine cars and cunningly hid the hollow cavities with timber or debris. Miners said, "uwamekuru (verb: to steal)," when they committed such a crime. (Uwamekuri [noun: theft] was the work of a crafty sakiyama [hewer].)
Therefore, shirofuri (marking coal pillars with limewater) was executed as the countermeasure in the latter half of the Meiji era (1868-1912). In shirofuri, limewater was sprayed or applied on coal pillars. This work was done by miscellaneous men or surveyors' helpers (kotori) called underground day laborers. Miners who stole an extreme amount of coal were accused, tortured, beaten, and thrown out from their pits by their bosses.

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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