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Tomioka was a town that once thrived as a mass producer of high quality silk.


Tomioka (富岡) is located in the south western part of Gunma Prefecture. In the Edo Period Tomioka was part of Kozuke Province under the tenryo territory. It was under the direct control of the Tokugawa Shogunate. When the Han system was abolished, Tomioka Town came into existence in the Kitakanra district. In 1954 Tomioka Town annexed Ichinomiya town as well as the villages of Ono, Kuroiwa, Nukabe, and Takase. It later reached city status in 1958 and merged with Myogi town in 2006 to make the present Tomioka. The city is most known for the Tomioka Silk Mill, which played an important part in the global silk industry. At one point in history 80% of the raw silk in the world came from the industrialized facility. The facility was established in the Meiji Period and continued to sustain the growth of Japan’s economy for many decades.

The area of Tomioka proved to be one of the optimal places to farm silk. The silk mill was not the only place that helped with the silk production. There is the Takayama Sericulture School just outside the city where people from all over Japan and nearby countries went to study the silk industry. In another city the Tajima Yahei Sericulture Farm is where high quality silkworm eggs were raised. Silkworm farmers visited the farm to learn about the techniques Tajime Yahei used to produce high quality silk consistently. The Arafune Cold Storage was a natural refrigerator used to store the silk in the early 1900s. It is a giant cave that is kept cool by the passing wind through the crevices that accumulated snow over the winter. These sites together are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage under the Tomioka Silk Mill.