|2007||Tentative list||Submitted as tentative site by State Party|Frederik Dawson (Netherlands):
The industrial heritage is one of the most underrepresented categories of Asian World Heritage Sites, as one of the most well known countries in industry, Japan has started to propose its heritages to fill the gap, Tomioka Silk Mill, the first state owned western-styled factory is one of the selection. Almost unknown for foreigners, the factory has been used as the symbolic landmark of Gunma Prefecture in many tourist brochures showing that this site is quite famous among locals. As part of my 2012 Japan trip, I took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Takasaki and then use the private Joshin Line to Tomioka City. From the train station, there was a color line painted on the road show direction to the mill, the same system used in many hospitals! After walked for about 15 minutes, I was at the entrance of the complex of the large and long brick building similar to many warehouses in European cities. The building turned out to be the eastern cocoon storage, inside there was a small exhibition of how to make silk, sadly that there is no English at all. Then I went to see the twin western cocoon storage which was closed for renovation. These two storages were quite the highlight of the mill as they were considered to be the first brick factory of Japan, the building was done by French and the roof by the Japanese, so it was quite interesting to see the European brick building topped with Japanese tiled roof.
After the storage complex, I went to the silk reeling machine hall, the machine were wrapped by dusty plastic sheet, the very surprised and uninspired way to preserve the machine. After that I walked around the complex of dormitories which mostly are western styled houses to finish the tour. It was a fine place, but nothing special in my idea. The significant of Tomioka seemed to be its status as the first western style factory used as the showcase of country development and the story of its workers. The workers of Tomioka was mainly women who worked 7.45 hours a day 6 days per week, so this is a significant place for Asian female labor history and welfare development, and not surprised that the cartoon image of a female worker has been used as a mascot to promote the World Heritage Site nomination. Tomioka to become a World Heritage Site was a prime agenda of locals; there were support posters and stickers everywhere in town, even on some cars! The complex was also under restoration and refurbishment to prepare the UNESCO registration; however, in my idea Tomioka need to do something more to explain the site and its outstanding value. The display was another big problem, the plastic wrap in the machine hall need to be put away and use other method like Plexiglas board instead as well as English explanation signs. This site has great potential, but a long way to go.
Date posted: March 2012
Have you been to The Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Industrial Heritage? Share your experiences!