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MIZUTAMARI Mayumi Associate Professor

Linguistics and Literature / Filmology and Cultural Studies of Representation
Specialized Field
Gender, History of thought
Japanese page

Lab. Letters: Messages from the Laboratory

Group activities that convey the dynamism of those who lived in coal mines

In the 1950s, domestic coal mines served as focal points for cultural activities related to literature, choral groups, plays and so on. Community magazines focusing on regional topics were also published. These magazines covered a broad range of topics, including those specific to coal mines. The intention was to inform the world of the oppressive working conditions. Printed pages successfully conveyed to readers the dynamism of those who lived at coal mines.

In 1958, the Circle Village monthly magazine, aimed at networking group activities based in local communities, was first published in Nakama City, Fukuoka Prefecture. The editorial board included Gan Tanigawa, Kazue Morisaki, Eishin Ueno and other intellectuals. It was my study of Kazue Morisaki that led to the beginning of my research on group activities. Going further from a starting point into an unexpected route may be a lure of literary research.

  • Circle Village, which ceased publication with its October 1961 issue, included poetry, tanka (31-syllable verse), essays and the columns “Ofuku Shokan” (correspondence), as well as short stories and “Kikigaki” (narratives written in the first person based on interviews with local people).
  • The second vertical shaft turret of the Miyanohara pit at the Mitsui Miike Coal Mine: A community was established in company housing (terraced houses).

Fresh testimony, natural bounteousness and
wider perspectives obtained in Hokkaido

It was in 2002 that I came up from Tokyo to take a position at Hokkaido University. Visiting Yubari, Bibai and Utashinai, which were once major coal mining areas, I was able to hear helpful stories from those who knew of those days. What was nurtured in my mind through these opportunities was a new perspective: that of outlying regions. The history of people who led vibrant lives and were emotionally attached to outlying hometowns that were beyond the view of more centralized areas captured my heart, coupled with Hokkaido’s great natural splendor. By coming to Hokkaido, I was able to expand my perspective, and this was the greatest boon in my life. From now on, by focusing on postwar writers such as Taijun Takeda and Yoshie Hotta, I relish further detours.

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