What is Tomioka Silk Mill?
Tomioka Silk Mill was Japan’s first silk-reeling factory established by the Meiji government in 1872. Since at the time, raw silk from Japan was highly regarded overseas, the government aimed to expand exports of the silk and invited a French technical expert to help set up a true large-scale mechanized silk-reeling factory. In 2014, the factory along with a modern experimental farm for sericulture, the former residence of Yahei Tajima and a cold-storage facility for silkworm eggs were registered collectively as a World Heritage site known as Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites.
The reason for its selection as a World Heritage site
There were other factories built in the Meiji Era but there are very few factories which have been as well preserved as the Tomioka Silk Mill. Factories remaining from the latter half of the 19th century are rare globally speaking which led to the mill’s consideration as a World Heritage site. Within the factory, there are many highlights to find out about including the Flemish bond style of bricklaying which has survived to the present day and the window glass which was designed to let in lots of natural sunlight.
The interior of the factory designed for a good living environment
The interior of the grounds had been arranged for its production facilities to be shaped into an open rectangle with living facilities such as barracks in the surrounding area constructed. The factory was enormous at a length of about 140m so that 300 women could work all at once under one roof. Automatic silk-reeling machines have been preserved and their operation in the factory can be seen via video. Inside the 1000㎡ area which made up the residence for the French technical expert, Paul Brunat, cherry blossoms and autumn leaves can be seen, and it is believed that Brunat enjoyed the passing of the four seasons there. In addition to the cocoon warehouse, there is also a company dormitory and an infirmary to show how advanced the working environment of the times was.