We heard the news Tomioka Silk Mill in Gunnma prefecture in Japan has been added to the list of Wrold Heritage by UNESCO.
Everyone knew about this Tomioka Silk Mill by learning Japanese history in schools but with this news, I think people here in Japan will realize how important silk was for the growth of Japanese economy.
They have official webpage in English too:
Tomioka Silk Mill has been built as a National project by the government of meiji, for modernization. The trading with other countries has become active at that time western countreis tried to invest to build mills but Japanese government thought they needed to do this as a goverment's project and make it as a model for future. Some foreighners worked for this project, and the building was built by a Frenchman also. That is why the building look not Japanese. Brick wall was not Japanese style, and they have made wooden frame and then used bricks. Tomioka Silk Mill was the biggest facility of silk mill in the world at that time. The beautiful building was finished but they had hard time finding workers-young girls. It must sound so ridiculous but there was a rumor `French drink blood'. (It was because they drank red wine)and girls were scared. One of the leader Odaka(aJapanese man) made his daughter work for the mills to show there was no such thing!
We had this bias image of silk industry workers by famous book and movies about women workes(Ah Nomugitoge and Jokoaishi). According to them, women workers were exploited and was under very poor working condition. That must have been true in the boosting industry, but actually working condition in Tomioka Silk Mill seemed quite modernized. They had two days holidays and also approprite welfare. It was not usual thing at that time.
Because of the pervasive desease of silkworms in Europe, Japan's silk popularity has increased, and the roll of Tomioka Silk Mill became quite important. 80 percent of export was silk at that time, so with silk Japan could survive and deepen exchanges with other countries.
Also there is wiki page:
As Mount Fuji, becoming World Heritage means having responsibility to keep the facility as a precious treasure for future generation. The mill will remind us the history of silk and of our country.