BY KUNIHIRO HAYASHI STAFF WRITER
One of Sakubei Yamamoto's paintings depicting the lives of coal miners. (Provided by Tagawa City Coal-Mining Museum)"Hako Nagure," one of Sakubei Yamamoto's UNESCO-registered paintings depicting the lives of coal miners and their community. (Provided by Tagawa City Coal-Mining Museum)"Playing hopscotch," one of Sakubei Yamamoto's UNESCO-registered paintings. (Provided by Tagawa City Coal-Mining Museum)Sakubei Yamamoto
A collection of paintings and diaries recording the lives of coal miners by late artist Sakubei Yamamoto has been accepted by UNESCO's Memory of the World Program, the organization said May 25.
The UNESCO director general endorsed recommendations of an advisory panel to register the Yamamoto collection. Recommendations were made by an international advisory committee that met in Manchester, England, on May 22-25.
This is the first time works by a Japanese have been registered for the Memory of the World Program, also known as the UNESCO World Documentary Heritage.
About 700 works by Yamamoto (1892-1984), mainly maintained by the Tagawa City Coal-Mining Museum in Fukuoka Prefecture, were recommended for the Memory of the World Program by Tagawa in March last year.
Yamamoto was born in what is present-day Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture. He worked as a miner and blacksmith in coal mines in the Chikuho district since age 7, following in the footsteps of his father.
He started painting the lives of people who worked the mines when he was about 63, when he started working as a security guard. It is believed he created nearly 2,000 pictures by the time of his death at 92.
A total of 697 works by Yamamoto--585 paintings, six volumes of diaries and 36 memo books and manuscripts kept by the city of Tagawa, and four paintings, 59 diaries, and seven other items, including manuscripts, owned by the Yamamoto family and kept by the Fukuoka Prefectural University--have been applied for UNESCO registration.
UNESCO assessed Yamamoto's paintings from the viewpoint of the individual laborer and coal miner at the Chikuho Coal Field, which supported Japan's industrial revolution. They are particularly meaningful, considering the fact most of the Japanese documents from the late Meiji Era (1868-1912) to the Showa Era (1926-1989) were ones recorded by the government or by companies.
The Memory of the World Program endorsed 45 new documents and documentary collections, including Yamamoto's works, on May 25.