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Japanese people love visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites. Good thing there are plenty of sites in Japan for people to pilgrimage to–17 before this week started. With the addition of Mt. Fuji in 2013, World Heritage site “completionists” finally had a new location to travel to after two years of waiting.

Well, the list just got a little bit longer, as another site has officially been added to bring Japan’s UNESCO sites to a total of 18. Pack your bags, we’re heading to Gunma!

In 1872, the Meiji government constructed the Tomioka Silk Mill as Japan’s first model example of how to make silk with machines. This mill was extremely important for the sake of modernizing Japan and showing that they could compete with the rest of the developed world.

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The government brought in silk reeling machines from other countries as well as the experts necessary to start a mass-production site where the local people could be trained in the technique. While the mill closed down in 1987, Katakura Industries Co. Ltd refused to allow the buildings to be torn down, citing their historical importance. From the mills closure until 2005, when the buildings were transferred to the city of Tomioka, the care and maintenance of the mill was paid for by Katakura Industries.

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While Tomioka city understood the historical importance of the silk mill, the road to becoming a recognized World Heritage site isn’t a quick and easy one. Way back in 2007, the Cultural Affairs Office submitted the Tomioka Silk Mill as a temporary candidate for selection to the World Heritage List. It wasn’t until April 2014, when the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) recommended the silk mill for UNESCO registration that the wheels really started turning. On June 21 2014, the Tomioka Silk Mill was finally registered as a World Heritage site.

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The huge site includes the silk-reeling mill, the east and west cocoon warehouses, the dormitory for French female instructors, the dormitory for French male engineers and the director’s house (Brunat House), all of which are still in excellent condition today.

For those interested in visiting, the Tomioka Silk Mill is located in Gunma Prefecture in Tomioka City. While the site is in impeccable condition only a couple of the buildings, the east cocoon storehouse and the silk house, are open to public viewing. However, the architecture, the science of the machines and the determination of so many people to make this part of UNESCO’s World Heritage, truly makes this place worth visiting.

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And, like any place you visit in Japan, they have some interesting souvenir food items in the forms of silk worms and cocoons for only the bravest to try!

Kaiko no Okoku (Silkworm Kingdom)
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You might need a bit of courage to put these chocolates in your mouth because they look like the real silk worms. RocketNews24 braved those buggy faces to try them ourselves!

▼Kuzuyu Mayu Komori (Cocoon Cake)

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A delicious cake that takes its motif from a cocoon. Made from purified arrowroot flour, it has the texture of silk.

▼Mayu Kuwa Monaka (Mulberry Cocoon Wafer)

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There are two types: Mulberry red bean filling, and mulberry leaf red bean filling. The box is wrapped with paper from the Tomioka Silk Mill.

Be the first of your friends to visit Japan’s newest World Heritage site! Crossing something off your list will never feel as educational and historically significant as this will!

Source: Japaaan Magazine, Wikipedia
Images: Facebook (富岡製糸場), Maruei Shokuhin, Tajimaya