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I am reading Basic Connections by Kakuko Shoji and came across the following passage from 雪女 (page 63 of book)

みのきちはいろりのそばで仕事をしている。

みのきち is a name, but I am not sure what いろりのそば means in this context. I know そば can be used to mean by someone's side.

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    いろり is a fireplace (VERY traditional = not seen in modern houses).
    – sundowner
    Jun 4 at 13:22
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    Ya, as @sundowner says. This kind of household feature might be better called a "hearth", since a "fireplace" is more commonly located along a wall, with a dedicated brickwork or stonework backing, often walls as well to form a firebox, and a flue leading to the chimney. Jun 4 at 17:59
  • Thanks both, that has cleared it up for me. So the meaning of the sentence is that the daugher みのきち is tending to the fireplace in order to maintain the fire. Jun 5 at 15:33
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    @2plus2equals5 He could be taking care of fire, but it is possible he's doing other things. Literally the sentence means 'Minokichi is working by the fireplace/hearth'.
    – sundowner
    Jun 5 at 23:17

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An いろり (囲炉裏 in kanji) is a hearth placed in traditional Japanese houses. It was common more than 100 years ago, but today most Japanese people would see one only in museums and samurai dramas. Thus いろりのそばで means "near the irori".

See this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irori

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