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Tomioka silk mill


Tomioka silk mill is located at Tomioka city, Gunma prefecture, approximately 100 km north west of Tokyo. It is relatively new UNESCO World heritage site in Japan.

Tomioka silk mill was built in 1872 owned and managed by Government of Japan, state factory. Later in 1893, it was sold to Mitsui family, one of the three largest conglomerates in Japan. The aims of the state factories were to suceed province owned properties of Edo period and also to teach the factory laborers how to work with the specific fields.

Therefore a French silk engineer, Paul Brunat was hired by the government as the advisors to teach the laborers at Tomioka. Brunat asked his French fellow, Edmond Bastien to draw the architect designer. Bastien was another French advisor hired by Japan but worked at Yokosuka shipyard.

The laborers were mostly young women, many of them are from former samurai family and their working hours were depended on the season due to the silk mill used daylight. Which means loger working hours in summer but shorter hours duing winter. These female laborers worked for couple of years and went back to their home towns and teached the local young laborers at there local factories or mills.

Therefore the government had to hire foreign advisors only at the beginning and later wanted Japanese local managers and engineers to run the factories and the mills. These state factories had a very important role to act as a technical schools.

To visit the Tomioka silk mill, take Joetsu or Hokuriku Shinkansen to Takasaki. Then change to private Joshin dentetsu line (JR pass not accepted) to Joshu Tomioka station. Then, it is roughly 15 minutes walk from the station. Joshin detetsu sells combination ticket - train tickets and ticket of Tomioka silk mill which is cheaper to buy the tickets separately, at Takasaki station.

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