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Interesting Lectures and Seminars

Sociology Seminar 3D (Special Seminar 3)

What is the “coal mining seminar” unique to our School of Humanities and Social Sciences?

Yurie Hamajima
3rd-year student, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

The theme of Sociology Seminar 3D (Special Seminar 3) is “coal mining.” At first, many people may wonder what students learn in the seminar. Although this theme may be somewhat removed from the general image of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, students in the seminar learn about coal mining as part of sociology. The seminar is based on the concept that a deeper understanding of the Japanese coal mining industry which has transitioned from growth to decline leads to studying the history of Japanese society. Initially, I didn’t understand any of the specialized terms associated with coal mining and found the seminar to be quite difficult. However, I have sought to broaden my knowledge together with other seminar students through listening to presentations, viewing visual data and attending exhibitions for recorded images of coal mining.

One major activity of the seminar is a 5-day, 4-night workshop held during summer vacation. Students travel to Kushiro, Hokkaido in order to conduct field work. To prepare for this field work, each student creates a booklet from documents and chronological tables which they have analyzed from a variety of perspectives including coal mine management, social welfare and coal mining techniques. Students also prepare contents for interviewing of local residents. Based on this preparation, we spoke with actual former coalminers and toured the inside of the Kushiro Coal Mine, the only coal mine in Japan which continues to mine coal for sale. It was a truly valuable experience for me.

The workshop also included many other fulfilling experiences, such as a gathering with members of the Tomonkai and participation in a local boat-rowing tournament.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Naoko Shimazaki whose warm (and sometimes strict) guidance made the workshop possible.

Feeling the weight of words during interviews with former coal miners

Professor Shimazaki is third from left in the front row. The author of this article is at the far right in the front row.