Tomioka Silk Mill is the Japanese technology symbol in the history of Japan to become modernized country during Meiji restoration in late 19 century. Meiji restoration had led Japan governed system dramatically changed from previous feudalism system lasted around 270 years of Edo era established by the founder and top of Samrai, Iyeyasu Tokugawa.
In my previous blog, I described the history table of Japan from ancient era to Meiji restoration comparing with that of the World. In the table, you can see the important position shown with red letter of Tomioka Silk Mill during Meiji restoration considering the history of Japan from Edo era.
During the Edo era, the Shogunate government had applied the policy of seclusion and had limited the foreign trade parter only to China, Korea and Netherlands. It is said that one of the reason Edo era had continued to be peaceful and created Japan original culture such as Ukiyoe painting, Kabuki and so on is from the seclusion system without invaded by foreign countries. However, on the other hand, during those days, some European countries had established advanced political governed system and advanced technology with enhancing the strong weapons.
Therefore, during those timeframe, the technology gap between those countries and Japan had largely increased. Finally, in the last stage of Edo era, US fleet came to Uraga port in Edo and demanded Japan Shogunate to stop the seclusion and open to foreign countries to execute trading with them under unfair condition.
In the conclusion, Shogunate decided to accept their request with unfair trade condition of no tariff autonomy and consular jurisdiction by USA.
After the historical event occurrence of the decision, some young Samurai worriers belonging to various western Japan district feudal loads had started to learn about the political system and technology of those foreign countries and had become recognized that they must have strong power of both technology, economy and weapons and Japan need to catch up them by original effort with getting various advanced information from those foreign countries for Japan to protect from their invasion. This movement finally had been enlarged combined with the idea of revering emperor and had the Shogunate returned their governed right to the Emperor.
Those young revolutionary worriers who initiated the government system change in Japan had started to make Japan as rich and strong armed country. To establish those, many key people established this Meiji restoration went abroad to European countries to study their advanced system including politics, technology and life system and weapons. Thanks to all of their effort to getting information from those countries and Japanese original superior which had been grown by the education system spread widely in Japan of Eda era, Japan had started to grown up the modernized country with applying political system referring from Germany and technology mainly from France.
This Meiji restoration can be considered as one of the biggest historical event in Japan same with French Revolution in Europe.
During and after the Meiji restoration, Tomioka Silk Mill had contributed the best to enhancing Japanese economy and technology by enlarging and establishing the Silk Mill producing technology at first by importing the technology know how from France. For the construction of Silk Mill factory, the Meiji government invited the technical advisor of the advanced silk-reeling technology from France and hired female trainees workers from all over Japan so that these trainees become skillful and they can transfer these technology to all around Japan.
Tomioka Silk Mill began the product operation on 1872. Factories in each area had began to learn the Silk Mill technology from Tomioka factory through the female workers worked at Tomioka factory. They had returned to their respective hometowns and transferred the silk-reeling technology. As the result, after the factory be privatized, this Silk Mill technology finally had become the world leading technology and had produced the Silk products as world number one volume until this factory had ceased to operate in 1987.
In 2005, Tomioka city has started to preserve and manage the Silk Mill of this factory as the important cultural property in Japan as several aspects such as a unique building technology, the advanced silk-reeling technology and remains of the factory contributed to Japan become industry leading country.
In 2014, Tomioka Silk Mill has been registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List as “Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites”.
I will describe the important aspects such as a unique building technology, the advanced silk-reeling technology
and remains of the factory with which this was registered as UNESCO World Heritage in my following blog.
<Entrance gate of Tomioka Silk Mill> <East Cocoon Warehouse >
<Interior of the Silk-reeling plant> <Tomioka Silk Mill plant painted as just started>