The works of Sakubei Yamamoto

People at Coal Pits in the Old Days #3: Coal Hewer (Cutting a Goshaku-so Coalface in an Upright Position)
1958 - 1963

Mukashi Yama no Hitobito #3: Sakiyama (Goshaku-so no Tachibori)
[People at Coal Pits in the Old Days #3: Coal Hewer (Cutting a Goshaku-so Coalface in an Upright Position)]
20.6 x 29.0 cm Ink Painting

Coal beds with a thickness of more than 5 shaku (1.5 m) are relatively thick and they were mined in an upright position. The hewer first cut the soft part of the coalface (sukashikomu) because it was completely inefficient to mine it evenly (tsuradori). It was efficient to cut the middle of the coalface first (nakasukashi) if possible, so they first cut it as deep as possible before hacking away coal on the bottom (shikiishi) and then the hanging coal on the top.
In this way hewers could make the most of their power. However, their mining skill varied, of course. It was not so hard to mine thick coal beds with no refuse in them (kiritaoshi), but many coal beds had layers of rock (bota) in them. Therefore, miners in the old days had much trouble in cutting and separating the rock. (Expert hewers always cut their coalfaces, facing the cross grain.) A coalface has either a cross grain (itame) or straight grain (masame), and those with a cross grain are easier to mine than a straight grain type. In most coal pits (in the Chikuho region), the cross grain was seen on the sides of inclined coal beds.

Lyrics of "Gotton Bushi" Song at the Top Left
Noborya honnasanna, me ni ishi ga iru.
Orosha honnasanna mizu ga tsuku.

Don't mine coal of an ascending coalface, or your eyes will catch coal dust.
Don't mine coal of a descending coalface, or the coal will get soaked with water.
Gotton (Clang)! (Interjected chant)

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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