The Silk Museum in Yokohama – A Story Teller of Miracle Textile
I visited the Silk Museum in Yokohama last week. This visit was motivated by seeing the exhibits of Tomioka Silk Mill (now a World Industrial Heritage last year. (Refer to my blog: https://igsforum.com/2015/12/07/tomioka-silk-mill-as-a-world-industrial-heritage/ )
And this time I believed that the Silk Museum would be sure to give us some essential information regarding how silk industry had grown as a major export product of Japan in history. Because the Museum was established in 1967 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of opening Port City Yokohama, and I knew that Yokohama had bristled with this silk export business in the early time of Meiji period. The visiting was quite satisfactory in this finding. The report is a small note on the impression of visit with some additional data on silk industry in Japan.
The purpose of my visit was, firstly, to know, what was the main route and process of silk trading from production to export, how the manufacturing technology of silk industry was formed and disseminated in Japan, and how it finally built up the competitive modern silk industry in Japan. And I also wanted to see how Yokohama assumed a leading role of this development in addition.
The Silk Museum is located at Yamashita town known as a historic and business center of Yokohama city. This area is also famous for the memorial harbor site, where the “Treaty of Kanagawa between US and Japan” was proclaimed in 1854, which had first opened the gate of Japanese modernization after the 250 years’ seclusion by the feudal Tokugawa government. The Yokohama Archives of History is also situated near the place. And the ”Enclave Zone” for foreign merchants in the early Meiji is also located there.
The purpose of establishment of Silk Museum was, according to the explanation, to promote the technology and artistic development of silk industries, and dissemination of silk production and businesses. In view of this historical importance, the Emperor and Empress have also been visiting the Museum in 2011.
The Museum displays the variety of specimens of silk worms and cocoons, heaps of silk threads and fabrics, and numerous silk fashion goods in its exhibition. The various machines and tools, which were used in the silk making manufacturing, are also exhibited by visual devices and hand-on way offer. The collection is really amazing scale.
According to the floor map of the museum, the exhibition is divided into three sections. The first one is the “Knowledge Library” section for learning about the origin of silk
industries and how this industry was developed, how Yokohama has been functioned in the merchandizing silk products and exporting businesses as well as inland silk production area (through a Japanese Silk Road).
The second section is the “Miracle Silk Library” showing the technological background of silk industries. The variation of silk worm and cocoon, their features, merit points of silk threads as a fabric are explained by panels and real substances. And its gallery shows the evolvement of machines and tools to process silk materials. In the technology perspective, the museum tried to show the future technological possibility of silk in our life and living. I thought this section would be the most attractive zone in the museum.
The third section is allocated for explaining the current and historical use of “Silk Fashion in Japan and World”. The gallery displays the artistic silk design from ancient period to the present in Japan and world. It is really nice exhibition to show how the world adopted silk products in their daily life and how it was appreciated as a glorious artistic clothes.
Among these exhibitions of three sections, my interest was especially on the matter about technology aspects of silk industries. Because I thought that the handling methods of raw silk and spinning technology, mechanization of silk production might have stood for the historical development of Japanese manufactural technology and industries to some extent. Such as, the development of mechanical technology of weaving have been contributing a lot to develop automobile industries in Japan like seeing the example of Toyoda Loom and Toyota later.
The comments on the exhibits and panel descriptions were never professional. Nevertheless the explanation was a quit extensive and fitted to the intellectual demand from visitors. I’ve learned a lot from the exhibits and commentaries on silk, particularly about the energy and spirit of Japanese engineers regarding the transformation of tools and machines of silk processing from the primary stage to modern ones.
For example, the exhibition is clearly showing that the technological deployment of the silk making processing and the shift of tools, from the hand working “Zaguri” (countersink reeling) stage, the primordial method to spinning, up to the mechanized modern silk making measures. And the hand weaving was rapidly staging up to the atomized machining weaving in short time.
All these evolutions look like referable to the whole process of how the industrial technology in Japan has developed with adoption of western advanced technology and modified them effectively in the early time of industrialization and also what it occurred in the post-War period.
At least, I’m convinced by visiting the Silk Museum how the silk industry has been improving the quality of silk products, how proceed the advancing technology, the way of building the top-notch export brand, and enhancing competitive trading power in the industrial process since Meiji period by the these exhibitions. In this mean, I learned a lot about the feature of silk industrial technology and industries. Anyway it was a joyful and meaningful visit for me. It’s a really worth place to visit for everyone.