The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Watercolor: All Genres

The Meiji-Era (1868-1912) Coalface (The Coalface in the Days When No Explosives Were Used Underground)
July 1966

Meiji (Kayaku o Saitan ni Shiyo Shinai Koro no Konai)
[The Meiji-Era (1868-1912) Coalface (The Coalface in the Days When No Explosives Were Used Underground)]
38.0 x 54.1 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

Text on the Right Side
(When miners found a crack in the roof, they said, "Noh ga tootte oru.")
No explosives were used for mining coal underground in the old days. Mine car (sumibako) accidents rarely occurred. Gas explosions (gasuke) rarely happened in small-scale coal pits (though they did happen at some pits). No floods damaged the pits in this region, though some rain water flowed into their slopes during the rainy season. However, there were lots of roof falls (botakaburi) in every pit (yama), and expert miners were afraid of them. Therefore, they hated clapping hands or crying out loud underground, because the roof echoed back the sounds of clapping hands or the hand claps made miners mishear the warning signs of roof falls. Loud voices also caused the same trouble.
Miners also hated whistling because whistles were used to give a disaster alarm. The disaster was called a hijo in the pit. Some good storyteller told us an interesting story that the female guardian deity of the pit would mistakenly regard whistling as the festival music for her, and that she would carelessly take a break, causing a roof fall.
Additionally, the hard roofs of slopes in other pits sometimes suddenly fell in the shape of a mortar and this type of roof fall was called a nuketen. These dangerous roofs could not be found by roof surveying with a hammer. So, miners were sometimes hit by these falling roofs. Even a small piece of falling roof rock weighing as much as about 30 kg could kill a miner, because it would hurt his/her head.

Text on the Top Left
Even young miners hated tattooing in the latter half of the Meiji era (1868-1912). Tattoos were losing their intimidating effect. Young male miners at that time were regarded as incompetent if they could not be full-fledged hewers by the time they turned 18 years old.

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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