One of Japan’s most prolific oshibori mines collapsed yesterday, with around sixty workers trapped within the warm, fluffy cavern.
The mine deep below the hills surrounding the Aichi city of Inuyama supplies much of the country with the warm towels, but it collapsed yesterday afternoon after one of the supports holding up the soft cloth walls gave way, leaving the miners stranded inside.
“Right now we are doing our best to free the miners still stuck underground,” said Daisuke Shimura, spokesperson for Akumi Oshibori Inc, the largest suppliers of Oshiboris in Japan. “From the information we have, they are currently comfortable. Very comfortable.”
Oshibori are a staple of every Japanese restaurant experience, with diners being given one every time that they sit down to eat. The industry has long been under pressure to find ways of providing this service in a more environmentally friendly way, something that has been routinely blocked by the Japanese government.
“This was an accident waiting to happen,” said Mai Nishida, an environmental activist who has long campaigned against the mining of oshibori in Japan. “But the government have been reluctant to act. If any of those miners die, perhaps due to falling asleep on the beds of cloth and choking on their plastic covers, then the blood is on Mr Abe’s hands.”
However, in spite of this disaster, the Liberal Democratic Party still stand firm in their resistance to the move away from the mining of oshibori towards the more environmentally friendly idea of washing the towels and reusing them.
“For centuries Japanese have used oshibori that are mined in the Aichi hills, and even if we were to ignore the huge quantities of jobs that could be lost should we close the mines, which we won’t, it is a way of life that we will not, and should not change. No matter the environmental cost.”
Update: Since first going to press, Akumi Oshibori Inc have confirmed, thanks to a keyhole camera that they have sent into the mine, that most of the miners are sleeping comfortably on their soft quarry.
27 fatalities have been confirmed