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Minister visits World Heritage Tomioka Silk Mill

June 22, 2014

Culture minister Hakubun Shimomura on Monday visited the Tomioka Silk Mill after the historic factory building was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list over the weekend.

The minister toured the mill complex, which includes timber-frame brick masonry buildings for cocoon warehouses and silk-reeling plant, as he looked for ways to spark tourism there.

"We should think about not only ways to protect it but also to utilize it to stimulate industries such as the sightseeing business," the minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology told reporters after his first visit to the mill in Gunma Prefecture, north of Tokyo.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's World Heritage Committee decided Saturday to add the factory building -- a symbol of Japan's industrialization starting in the 19th century that also played a leading role in the world's silk industry -- to the World Cultural Heritage list along with related sites.

The committee members mostly backed a U.N. advisory panel's recommendation in April to give the silk mill heritage status, citing technology exchanges between Japan and Western countries from the late 19th century.

The complex, built in 1872 initially as a government-run factory and operated until 1987, became Japan's 18th World Heritage property and also the country's first modern industrial heritage site on the list.

The related sites registered together with the mill complex are the Tajima Yahei sericulture farmhouse, the Takayama-sha sericulture school and the Arafune cold storage for silkworm eggs, all located in the same prefecture.

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Source: Japan Economic Newswire

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