Tomioka Silk Mill 富岡製糸工場
Gunma prefecture 群馬県 Japan
In 1870, Paul Brunat, who worked in a French trading company in Yokohama, researched suitable locations for a silk mill in the Kanto region and selected the site in Tomioka City from among the candidates.
The construction began in 1871 and was completed in July the next year. Three months later the factory started operation. In the beginning, there were 150 silk reeling machines (300 basins), and about 400 female workers, many French teachers and workers came into Japan to teach the work to local Japanese women and operated the machines in the mill.
The lifestyle of the workers has been recorded in the diary of one, Wada Ei. In the silk reeling factory, 'you will be amazed by the huge area without supporting pillars for the silk reeling mill that was operated by 300 workers.'
I liked the detail about manpower: At first it was difficult to find workers, local people were afraid of what they called French "vampires" drinking blood... They enjoyed drinking a red liquid called... red wine
Late April 2014, Paris based Unesco advisory panel recommended giving "Unesco World Heritage" status to the Tomioka Silk Mill historic factory building as they are symbolizing Japan’s industrialization from the 19th century. Endorsement could be formalized at a meeting of the World Heritage Committee June 15-25, set in Qatar. Likely to be offered.
Already today tourists are visiting this attractive old city of Gunma prefecture. So, to go there, catch a Shinkansen to Takasaki, then ride the cute 2 cars train Joshin Dentetsu line to Joshu-Tomioka. It's a beautiful report / journey in the history of Japan industrialisation on the way to Karuizawa and near by Isobe Onsen.