Tomioka Silk Mill

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The Tomioka Silk Mill, as depicted in an ukiyo-e print by Utagawa Kuniteru II
  • Established: 1872
  • Japanese: 富岡製糸場 (Tomioka seishijô)

The Tomioka silk mill was one of the earliest and most major silk reeling factories in Meiji period Japan. Established by the Meiji government in 1872 with the explicit aim of modernizing Japan's silk industry and expanding Japan's place within the global silk market, it led the way in bringing modern/Western techniques, technologies, and factory structure to the Japanese industry. Located in Gunma prefecture, the 140 meter brick building housed hundreds of reeling machines operated by around 400 women.

A strike conducted by the silk mill's workers in 1898 is oft-cited as a notable example of the grueling labor practices of the time, and the beginnings of a modern labor movement in Japan.

The mill is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


  • Gallery labels, British Museum.[1]
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