Sakubei Yamamoto (1892-1984) grew up in Fukuoka Prefecture’s Chikuho region, which was once one of Japan’s most prolific coal-mining areas. He devoted his life to the mining industry, and when he retired he took up painting as a way to memorialize his experience, just as the importance of coal began to diminish and oil became an increasingly popular alternative.

Yamamoto’s illustrations often offer insight into the dire working conditions of the miners, who were subject to heavy manual labor in unpredictable and often deadly environments. His candid depiction of their lives led to his work being listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2011; till May 6.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.