Agency for Cultural Affairs
June 21, 2014

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) has decided to inscribe the Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites on the World Heritage List at the 38th meeting held in Doha, Qatar on June 21 at 10:55AM local standard time (June 21 at 16:55PM Japan standard time).
The official date of inscription will be decided on the final date of the WHC deliberations on June 25.

(Reference) Decisions by the World Heritage Committee:
  1. Inscription: The property qualifies to be inscribed on the World Heritage List (WHL).
  2. Referral: Nominations which require additional information by the State Party which may be resubmitted to the following Committee session for examination.
  3. Deferral: Nominations which require a more in-depth analysis and substantial revisions by the State Party. Should the State Party decide to resubmit the deferred nomination, it will then be revaluated by the relevant Advisory Body during the course of a full year-and-a-half evaluation cycle.
  4. Not to Inscribe: The property does not qualify to be not inscribed on the WHL. The nomination may not again be presented to the Committee except in exceptional circumstances.

1."Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites" Basic Timeline

January 2007 Nomination file included on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List
January 2013 Recommendation submitted to UNESCO
September 2013 On-site investigation by ICOMOS experts
September 2013 Request by ICOMOS for additional information
October 2013 Additional information submitted to ICOMOS
April 2014 Recommendation by ICOMOS

2.Outline of deliberations by the World Heritage Committee


The Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites has been inscribed on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii) and (iv) (please refer to attachment).

<Main points of deliberations>

  • A majority of the Committee members (18 nations) affirmed the Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites as appropriate for WHL inscription in accordance with ICOMOS recommendations.
  • The Committee members particularly praised Japan’s collaboration with ICOMOS upon preparing its nomination.
  • As industrial heritage sites are not sufficiently reflected in today’s WHL, Committee members hope the inscription of the Tomioka Silk Mill will promote other inscriptions in this field.

photo of Higashimayusoko

Summary of Deliberations on the Inscription of the Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites on the World Heritage List

Decision: 38 COM 8B.27

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC-14/38.COM/8B and WHC-14/38.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes the Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites, Japan on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii) and (iv);
  3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis
    The Tomioka Silk Mill dates from the early Meiji period. With its related sites including two sericulture schools and an egg storage site, it illustrates the desire of Japan, a traditional silk producer, to rapidly access the best mass production techniques. The Japanese government imported French machinery and industrial expertise to create an integrated system in Gunma Prefecture. It included egg production, silkworm farming and the construction of a large mechanised raw silk reeling plant. In turn, the Tomioka model complex and its related sites became a decisive component in the renewal of sericulture and the Japanese silk industry, in the last quarter of the 19th century, and a key element in Japan’s entry into the modern industrialised world.
    Criterion (ii): The Tomioka mill illustrates the early and entirely successful transfer of French industrial sericultural techniques to Japan. This technological transfer took place in the context of a long regional tradition of silkworm farming and silk reeling, which it profoundly renewed. In turn, Tomioka became a centre for technical improvements and a model that enshrined Japan’s role in the global raw silk market at the beginning of the 20th century, and which bears witness to the early advent of a shared international culture of sericulture.

    Criterion (iv): Tomioka and its related sites form an outstanding example of an integrated ensemble for the mass production of raw silk. The extent of the plant, from its initial design, and the deliberate adoption of the best Western techniques illustrate a decisive period for the spread of industrial methods to Japan and the Far East. Its large, late 19th century buildings provide an eminent example of the emergence of a style of industrial architecture specific to Japan, combining foreign and local elements.

    The integrity of the serial property’s composition is good, illustrating the idea of a productive complex for an intermediate textile product: raw silk. The structural and functional integrity of each of the components is more uneven and at times difficult for the visitor to understand, notably the Takayama-sha sericulture school and Arafune cold storage. The landscape integrity, as it relates to the buffer zones, requires particular attention.

    The authenticity of the components presented is generally satisfactory in terms of its various dimensions of structure, form and materials. The perceived authenticity is remarkable at the Tomioka mill, which has retained its complete textile machinery. The restoration activities at the Arafune site must remain within a strictly controlled framework in terms of its authenticity, which must remain archaeological in nature.

    Protection and Management requirements
    Each of the four sites comprising the serial property is protected by Japan’s Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. The main buildings are also protected as cultural properties of national importance. Under the application of this law, each of the sites is covered by a conservation and management plan already in place under the aegis of the cities and municipalities, including in the case of the privately owned Tajima Yahei (S2). Continuing this protection policy, the buffer zones correspond with a desire to control the urban and natural environments using measures that are, in theory, stringent. The management system relies on the competent services of the municipalities, the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Gunma Prefecture and a series of scientific institutions involved in the regional silk heritage, and volunteer associations. The Coordination Committee, established in spring 2012, is an overarching body responsible for coordinating the actual operation.

  4. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:

    • Continuing to pay close attention to economic and urban development in the vicinity of the sites by strictly applying the planned protection measures for the buffer zones, and even consider strengthening them,
    • Giving deeper consideration to the archaeological nature of the Arafune site and the advantages and disadvantages of a protective roof,
    • Strengthening the cooperation between the local structures and the Central Coordination Committee in order to harmonise the various provisions in the management plans for each of the sites and to arrive at a unified Management Plan,
    • Undertaking research on the transmission of expertise by women, from France and within Japan itself, thanks to their roles as instructors and workers; and improve knowledge about the latter’s working and social conditions.

Decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session (Doha, 2014)
WHC-14/38.COM/16, page 209-210

(Agency for Cultural Affairs, Cultural Properties Department, Monuments and Sites Division)