The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Other work at the yama

Recruited Miners and Their Dialect
December 1694

Boshu Kofu to Hogen
[Recruited Miners and Their Dialect]
39.4 x 54.7 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

K Coal Pit, which opened in 1894, recruited a lot of people from Hiroshima Prefecture because the pit was troubled by the lack of workers. They were not seasonal workers who worked only for a year or a half year, but were people who were determined to seek their fortune after working there for several years. It was said that some of them returned home with a considerable amount of money after enduring such hardship that they ate rice without any additional foods and spent only 1 rin (0.001 yen) at a time even when they could use 5 rin. However, such successful people were small in number. Unfortunate immigrants could not even save money and return home, being up to their ears in debt. Most of them seem to have lived the rest of their lives as pit workers (yamabito).
Around 1899, an amusing anecdote in dialect spoken by people from Hiroshima became popular. The anecdote was related to silicified wood (matsuiwa or iwa) which was often found in coalfaces of K Coal Pit. This rock was harder than steel. If a miner hit it with a pickax (tsurubashi), sparks flew and the tip of the pickax was immediately dulled. Silicified wood found on the tops of coalfaces was called tsuriiwa, and that found on the bottoms was called shikiiwa. The saikogakari (underground boss) at coal pits (yama) at that time was also called a kogashira. However, most miners called him a "toryo."
The following is the above mentioned anecdote between this toryo and a miner who hit iwa with his tsuru (pickax).

Kofu: Toro-san, toro-san! Kiriha no muko kara hi ga deyansu ga, nanzo ningen ni waza wa shinsarumee kaa no.
Kashira: Kono fuuke ga. (funuke no namari)
Kofu: Fuuke ja gansen, kaata de gansu.

Miner: Toro-san [Toryo-san], toro-san! Sparks flew out from the coalface. I wonder if they can hurt us.
Boss: What? You fuukee: (a regional word for funuke [coward])!
Miner: It's not the fuuke (fuke), but the kaataa (kata) [that the sparks flew from].

Kata means the inclined side of a slope.
Fuke means the dipped side of a slope.

I do not know if this joke was made to mock new-recruit miners or actually performed.
The iwa was also called getten which originally means a stubborn person.

Lyrics of "Gotton Bushi" Song
Hige o hayashite kane no tsue tsuite,
"Kogashira-san!" to iiya "Oi?" to nukasu.

The underground boss wears mustaches and walks with a metal stick.
He replies, "Yes?" when I call out to him, "Kogashira-san (Boss)!"
Gotton (Clang)! (Interjected chant)

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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