The actual chimneys depicted in the mural stand just feet away, casting shadows across the mural below. The chimneys are 二本煙突 (nihon entotsu; literally: two chimneys), more fully described as 三井田川炭鉱大煙突 (“Mitsui Tagawa coal mine large chimney”), part of the the 三井田川炭鉱 Mitsui Tagawa coal mine.
The mine was part of the Chikuho coalfield 筑豊炭田 (map), a coal-producing region in northern Kyushu instrumental to Japan’s industrial revolution. The term Chikuho 筑豊 is the combination of 筑前 Chikuzen and 豊前 Buzen, two provinces of the old administrative system (the kanji 豊 can be pronounced ‘hu‘ or ‘bu‘ depending on the context).
The two chimneys are prominently displayed on the Tagawa City website:
Next to the smokestacks is the Tagawa City Coal and History Museum 田川市石炭・歴史博物館. The museum has what you would expect: maps, diagrams, artifacts…
Of personal interest is the reproduction of old coal mine housing, known as 炭鉱住宅 Tanko-jutaku, or tan-ja たんじゃ for short (photo). I’ve also seen the term 坑夫納屋, meaning “digger’s barn” or “miner’s shed” (photo), and 鑛夫社宅, which I believe mean’s “coal miner company housing”. Coal miner housing may have influenced Japan’s post-war danchi apartment complexes, but I need to explore this further.
As much as I enjoy these old buildings, let’s not forget the people who lived there and worked in the mines. Coal miners were at the bottom of the economic totem pole, not surprisingly. Let’s read an excerpt from The Stories Clothes Tell: Voices of Working-Class Japan:
III. Final notes
In an earlier post about the ubiquitous 5 p.m. going-home songs in Japan, I happened to note that Tagawa city has a special Coal mine bell 炭坑節ベル音. See Tagawa City 田川市 Disaster prevention administrative radio 防災行政無線: Coal mine bell sound 炭坑節ベル音 (website; listen to the song).
- Tagawa City Coal and History Museum 田川市石炭・歴史博物館
- 〒825-0002 福岡県田川市大字伊田2734番地1 / Tagawa-shi, Fukuoka-ken
- Tel：0947-44-5745 / Fax：0947-44-5745
- Website: English / Japanese
- Closest station: Tagawaita Station 田川伊田駅 (70-80 minutes from Fukuoka city)
- 石炭 (sekitan) せきたん = coal
- 筑豊炭田（ちくほうたんでん） “Chikuho coalfield (Chikuho-tanden)
- 筑前国 = Chikuzen Province ちくぜんのくに Chikuzen no kuni
- 豊前国 = Buzen Province ぶぜんのくに Buzen no kuni
- 鑛夫 = koufu こうふ = miner, digger / 坑夫, pronounced the same, also means ‘miner’
- The Miner 坑夫 is a novel by Natsume Soseki 夏目漱石 (1908)
Tagawa City Links:
- Tagawa City Coal and History Museum website
- Tagawa City Coal and History Museum – Japanese Wikipedia
- Fukuoka Prefecture Tourist Information: Tagawa City Coal and History Museum
- Fukuoka Prefecture Tourist Information: Tagawa City Coal Commemorative Park
- Miyaura Sekitan Memorial Park (tripadvisor)
- Mitsui Miike Tanko Mikawa-ko Historic Site (tripadvisor)
- Two chimneys article (Japanese)
- Coal Industry Science Museum (tripadvisor)
- Historical photos of Mitsui mine (Asahi / Getty Images)
- Background on coal industry history in Japan
- Interview with an inhabitant of Tagawa
- Tagawa City Coal and History Museum, miner housing (English) (Japanese)
Coal mine housing links:
- Kyū tankō jūtaku no jittai to santan chiiki no seikatsu kankyō seibi ni kansuru chōsa kenkyū. – Survey and research on actual situation of former “coal mine housing” (Tanju) and improvement of living standard in coal producing area.
- A Study on Housing for Coal mine workers. Considerations of its supply policies and planning
- 「坑夫納屋」から「鑛夫社宅」への発展過程について : 炭鉱住宅計画に関する史的研究 THE ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION OF ROW HOUSES FOR COAL MINERS (NAYA AND KOFU-SHATAKU) IN JAPAN : A historical study on housing for coal miners