Jun 23, 2014

Tomioka Silk Mill will get registered as a world heritage of UNESCO!

Hi everyone!

Good news for us! 富岡製糸場(Tomioka Seishijo) Tomioka Silk Mill factory in Gunma Prefecture will soon become the 18th world heritage of UNESCO in Japan.

Est Cocoon Warehouse ©Tomioka Silk Mill

I have never visited the factory, but almost all the people who have learned Japanese history at school know that the Tomioka Silk Mill played sigificant role in modern industrialization in this country.

The factory was built in 1872 by the Japanese government under the supervision of French silk engineer Paul Brunat. Equipped with silk reeling machine brought from Europe, it enabled mass production of quality raw silk, one of the most important exporting items of the day. 

The silk reeling factory, planned by French ship carpenter Edmond Bastien, is 140 meters long, 12 meters wide and 12 meters high, the biggest of its kind in the world at that time.  


At first they had difficulty hiring female workers because of  a stupid rumor that Western people were sucking the blood of girl workers. They say someone who saw French engineers drinking red wine must have misunderstood and spread this rumor. How strange!

Anyway, about 400 girls, mostly daughters of former samurai families who had lost their privileged social status due to the abolition of class system, were collected from all around the country to work there.

Their working conditions were not bad at all. They worked 8 hours a day, had a day off on Sundays and 10 day-holiday in summer and winter. They were well paid as well. Most skillful workers were paid 25 yen, while the first salary of elementary school teachers and police officers was 8-9 yen.  (1 yen of the day is equivalent to 20,000 yen today.)


Unfortunately the business went into the red only eight years late, and the factory was sold to a private company. 

The silk production continued till 1987, when the factory was finally closed down because of the declining demand for silk and the competition against cheap imports from China.

Today the well-maintained silk mill and its related buildings in the site are the property of Tomioka City.  

Outside of the reeling mill ©Tomioka Silk Mill

Inside of the factory ©Tomioka Silk Mill
I heard Tomioka Silk Mill has been very busy with a lot of tourists since the designation of world heritage was announced. I'll probably wait for a couple of years until this boom calms down, but if you don't mind going to crowded places, why don't you visit there?  For more information, check the factory's official website (in English) .  Click here



富岡製糸場(とみおかせいしじょう)  Tomioka Silk Mill
世界遺産 (せかいいさん)  world heritage
登録する (とうろくする)  to register 


技術 (ぎじゅつ) technique
導入する (どうにゅうする)  to introduce
近代化 (きんだいか) modernization
貢献する (こうけんする) to contribute


工場 (こうじょう) factory
最初 (さいしょ) at first
西洋人 (せいようじん) Western people
生き血 (いきち) blood (of a living person)
吸う (すう) to suck
噂 (うわさ) rumors
苦労する (くろうする) to have difficulty


全国 (ぜんこく) whole country
労働者 (ろうどうしゃ) workers
労働条件 (ろうどうじょうけん) working conditions
意外にも (いがいにも) unexpectedly
最も (もっとも) most
熟練した (じゅくれんした) skillful
職人 (しょくにん) artisans
月給 (げっきゅう) monthly salary


警察官 (けいさつかん) police officer
初任給 (しょにんきゅう) the first salary
給料 (きゅうりょう) wage


残念なことに (ざんねんー) unfortunately
赤字 (あかじ)  deficit
民間 (みんかん) private, nonofficial
閉鎖 (へいさ) close down
操業 (そうぎょう) operation
富岡市 (とみおかし) Tomioka City
管理する (かんりする) to manage

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