World Heritage : Tomioka Silk Mill
February 17, 2023
The Tomioka Silk Mill in Gunma Prefecture was Japan's first full-scale silk mill. After the Meiji Restoration, the government focused on exporting raw silk to raise funds for industrial modernization. The Tomioka Silk Mill was built as a model government-run factory equipped with Western-style yarn-manipulating machinery. This factory, which introduced French technology, was established in 1872 and was one of the world's largest instrumental silk mills at the time. The story of Tomioka Silk Mill is often described in terms of the women who worked there. The original purpose of the factory was to recruit women from all over Japan and teach them the most advanced instrumental spinning technology of the time, so that they could become leaders who would provide guidance in factories around the country. As the goal was realized, the women who had gained experience in the mills passed on their skills to other factories in Japan. Overseas, the raw silk produced by the millwrights was called "Tomioka Silk", and its durability and high quality made it popular in Europe and the US. Tomioka Silk Mill, which contributed to the development of the global silk industry and supported the modernization of Japan, was registered as a World Heritage site in 2014.