Tomioka Silk Mill Now a World Heritage Site

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided Saturday to add the Tomioka Silk Mill, a historic factory building symbolizing Japan’s industrialization from the 19th century, to the World Cultural Heritage list.

The mill and related sites in Gunma Prefecture became the 18th World Heritage property in Japan including natural heritage sites. They are also Japan’s first modern industrial heritage sites on the list.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his delight at the decision in a statement saying, “We would like to firmly protect this cultural heritage which is a treasure of the world and pass this on to the next generation.”

Tomioka Silk Mill Recommended as World Heritage Site

A special committee of Japan’s Council for Cultural Affairs agreed Thursday to recommend the Tomioka Silk Mill and related industrial heritage should be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Japanese government will decide on the step at a meeting of relevant government agencies and submit a provisional recommendation paper to the U.N. organization in September, aiming for the inscription in 2014, officials said.

To be recommended are four properties including the silk mill, which was built in 1872 as a state-run plant. The silk mill in Gunma Prefecture, north of Tokyo, continued its operations until 1987 even after it was sold to the private sector in 1893.

The mill and three other facilities are preserved in excellent condition.

The committee recognized the facilities’ universal value because they contributed to mass production of high-quality raw silk with advanced technology and played a significant role in the development of the world’s silk industry.