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Updated:June 25, 2014

Recent Times

Recent Times "Industrial development and the modern state"

The opening of the ports in the final days of the Tokugawa Shogunate provided the opportunity for Nagano to link its economy to the world. In particular, raw silk with its silver sheen played a major role in attracting people's vision away from Japan to the outside world. The prefectural song, "Shinano no Kuni", also mentions the fine thread from silkworms as "linked to the life of the province".
When Nagano started building relations with foreign countries, it first introduced silk-reeling machines and devoted its energy to developing silkworm-raising and silkworm seed-raising technologies , with the result that it became the leading "silk thread kingdom" of Japan. Nagano's modern history is so closely tied to the rise and fall of the silkworm-raising and silk-reeling industries that it could be said to be the history of Nagano itself.


Raw silk tradermarks

Raw silk trademarks (Reproductions of actual articles stored at Katakura Industries Ltd.)


As typified by Katakuragumi, the silk-reeling industry of Nagano expanded outside the prefecture and to other countries and Nagano became the silk-reeling center of Japan. Farms all over the prefecture engaged in silkworm raising, calling the silkworms "o-kaiko sama (honorable silkworms)". However, silkworms were prone to disease and the mulberry leaves that they ate were easily damaged by the weather, so there were good years and bad years in silkworm raising and this greatly affected the lives of the silkworm farmers.
The silk-reeling industry reached its peak from the Taisho period through the early years of the Showa period, but due to the effects of the depression starting in 1929, the silk-reeling industry collapsed and silkworm farmers were hard hit by the slump in cocoon prices. To overcome the recession, Nagano aggressively promoted emigration to Manchuria in the northeast of China, becoming the prefecture with the highest number of emigrants.

Extensive training in sericulture was one of the main factors in the growth of the silk-reeling industry in Nagano. Chiisagata Sericulture School (present-day Ueda Higashi High School) and Ueda College of Sericulture (present-day Textile Department of Shinshu University) were among the first such schools in the country to open.

On the other hand, development of the silk industry gave rise to problems involving the working conditions, salaries and living conditions of the factory girls, and campaigns for their improvement arose.


Katakuragumi offices

Katakuragumi offices (Displayed at Nagano Prefectural Museum of History)