The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Yama Children

Children in Coal Pits (Yama) in the Meiji Era (1868-1912) #23: Children Entering the Pit to Help Their Parents
1964 - 1967

Meiji Chuki Yama no Kodomo #23: Kodomo no Nyuko, Tedasuke
[Children in Coal Pits (Yama) in the Meiji Era (1868-1912) #23: Children Entering the Pit to Help Their Parents]
25.5 x 35.6 cm Painting in Watercolors and Ink

The national health insurance system was introduced in 1927, lifting many of the burdens of the wounded and the diseased, save for the pains of the diseases and wounds themselves. However, the lives of the diseased before then were very miserable. Their diseases forced their children to suffer great hardship. In the same way as the song lyrics written below, little children as young as to pester their parents for sweets had to work underground together with their elder brothers or mothers. People who saw such children also felt pity for them. Even if their fathers were not ill, some children had to look after their younger siblings underground with their mothers. In such cases, it would seem safer for the younger children to be shouldered by their mothers. However, a child carried this way could hit his/her head against the roofs of narrow slopes and elder children had to carry them for their mothers. That is why such elder children had occasional or lengthy absences from school. Hiring a babysitter cost 10 sen a day with an additional 3 to 5 sen as a tip, which was too much for parents. 1 sho (1.5 kg) of polished rice cost 10 sen around 1899.

Lyrics of "Gotton Bushi" Song at the Top Left
Nanatsu yatsu kara kantera sagete
konai sagaru mo oya no bachi.

It was my parents' fault that I had to work underground
with a lamp in hand when I was seven or eight.
Gotton (Clang)! (Interjected chant)

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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