Unravel the Mysteries of Silk in Tomioka
Learn about silk production at a historical factory and UNESCO World Heritage Site
Silk has played a major role in Japanese culture, fashion, and industry for over a millennium. As the manufacturing process evolved and grew more advanced, Japanese silk came to be renowned worldwide for its superior quality.
In 1872, the Tomioka Silk Mill opened, located within the city of Tomioka in Gunma Prefecture. As Japan’s first modern government-run model silk factory, it was built with the help of French engineers and used modern machinery to reel up the silk threads. Japanese women were taught the art of silk-reeling with the hope that they’d eventually return to their hometowns and spread the knowledge of their craft.
Although the factory ceased operations in 1987, it has been remarkably well preserved over the years, allowing visitors to admire the historical buildings and machinery just as they were in their heyday. In 2014, the mill was recognized as both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a designated National Treasure of Japan for its role in transforming Japan into a major raw silk exporter for most of the 20th century.
You’ll learn about techniques used to both improve the quality of raw silk and increase production, as well as get a sense for how the women workers went about their daily tasks. It's a unique window into a lesser-known chapter in Japan's fascinating industrial history.
Access: From Tokyo Station, take the Hokuriku or Joetsu Shinkansen bullet train to Takasaki Station (about 50 minutes); transfer to the local train on the Joshin Dentetsu Line to Joshu-Tomioka Station (about 40 minutes); walk about 10 minutes to the mill.
Tomioka Silk Mill
1-1 Tomioka, Tomioka-shi, Gunma-ken
Approx. 1 hour or more