The works of Sakubei Yamamoto
Yama Living

People at Coal Pits (Yamabito) in the Old Days: Bathing and Baths
1964 - 1967

Mukashi no Yamabito: Nyuyoku, Furo
[People at Coal Pits (Yamabito) in the Old Days: Bathing and Baths]
38.0 x 54.2 Painting in Watercolors and Ink

Men and women bathed together.
The water was pumped up from the pit and contained the cylinder oil for steam-engine water pumps as well as had a strong metallic taste. The water was so sticky that it was hard to clean their body. Some sakiyamas (hewers) covered with coal dust would jump into the bathtub without cleaning their bodies or buttocks. Also they freely used soap in the bathtub and the water became dirty and turned black, like indigo in a jar to dye cloth. [Translator's Notes: The Japanese people usually do not use soap in bathtubs.]

A bar of soap cost 3 sen (0.03 yen) and later would cost 5 sen.
The soap was made of lime and soda, and caused the eyes to burn and turn red when even a little water touched them. They used tinted black wa tenuguis (Japanese towels) instead of face towels usually used today. They cleaned their nostrils blackened with coal dust, with their towels which had black splashed patterns like kasuri. Their usual towels cost 3 sen and better ones cost 5 sen. [Translator's Notes: Kasuri is the pattern on the yukata worn by the woman in the picture standing on the right.]

The bottom of the bathtub was level with the floor, and the edge was too high for little children to climb.

Mixed bathing existed at small-scale coal mines until the Showa era (1926-1989).
Some coal mines had a bathroom with two entrances for men and women, which led to only one bathtub separated in halves by a wooden board.

In winter, people coming later would demand to pour cold water into the bathtub to lower the water temperature because they felt the water too hot for their shivering bodies while others would demand to raise the temperature because they felt the same water was too lukewarm. Both sides would not change their opinions.

Notice on the wall
Using soap in the bathtub, singing and shouting loudly are prohibited. Mine Director

Translation Assisted by Mr. Nathan Johndro

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