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LUJ Students Head Out to Nukisaki Shrine and Tomioka Silk Mill for Field Trip

LUJ Students Head Out to Nukisaki Shrine and Tomioka Silk Mill for Field Trip


LUJ Students Head Out to Nukisaki Shrine and Tomioka Silk Mill for Field Trip

On Friday, June 21, eleven students taking Environmental History of Japan (HIS214) traveled three hours by train and arrived at the Tomioka Silk Mill, declared a World Heritage Site in 2014. The field trip was organized by their LUJ professor, Dr. Adam Tompkins.

Around 11:40am, the students arrived at Jōshū-Ichinomiya Station, near Tomioka, Gunma, and walked about fifteen minutes to the Nukisaki Shrine (jinja). The shrine, according to Gunma prefecture's tourist website, “is particularly dear to the Tomioka community because it enshrines Hime Okami, the deity of silk farming and weaving, historically two of the city’s key industries.”

As the students approached the shrine, they were looking upon a nearly 400-year-old structure, and a shrine whose history reaches as far back as 600 A.D. The visit to the shrine gave students an opportunity to consider the deep roots of sericulture in the region before visiting the Tomioka Silk Mill, which is representative of Japan’s modernization and industrialization during the Meiji Restoration.

Tomioka Silk Mill, one of several World Heritage sites within easy day trip range of LUJ, was constructed in 1872. The mill sites (4 in total) utilized Western production methods and technology, proving to be a central driver of "Japan's entry into the modern, industrialized era," according to UNESCO, "making it the world's leading exporter of raw silk, notably to Europe and the United States" well into the 20th century. 

Visiting Tomioka better enabled students to understand the impact of the mill’s industrial logic on the place and people as it increasingly integrated the Japanese countryside into the global economy. The trip also provided an opportunity to contemplate the lives of mill girls who worked extremely long hours producing the silk that was so vital to the textile industry.

Experiential learning like this is a core element of the Japanese Studies Certificate Program at LUJ. See pictures of the field trip below. Participating students included Maddie Williams, Kenny Pauling, Tayshaun Trisby, Tony Anderson, Christopher Schroeder, Jake Hamilton, Sera Hayes, Koji Yamazaki, Gen Takeuchi, Kento Takeuchi, and SeonJeong Kim.

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