Japan: Kanagawa/ Yokohama Silk Museum (横浜 シルク博物館)

Many people have heard about the Silk Road, an ancient trade route between Rome and China, but few realize that the port of Yokohama in Japan also played an important role in the silk trade.

After closing its doors to foreigners for nearly three centuries (with the exception of the Chinese and the Dutch), Japan once again welcomed foreign trade in the mid 1800s. The port of Yokohama opened in 1859 as a modern trading town engaged in exporting Japanese silk, tea, rice and seafood with raw silk comprising 25-40% of total Japanese exports. Today, the city is recognized as the birthplace of Japan’s modern culture.

Raw silk was produced primarily in the northern Kanto region and sent to Hachioji, which is part of the Greater Tokyo Area. From there it was transported to Yokohama on horseback and later by railway. Today, Japan is ranked fifth in the world after China, India, Brazil and Uzbekistan in the production of raw silk.

Hence, it doesn’t come as a surprise that there is a museum dedicated to the silk industry in Naka-ku, Yokohama. It opened in March of 1959 in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the opening of the port of Yokohama. The two story museum housed in the Silk Center International Trade and Sightseeing Building illustrates the history of silk, displays silk garments from Japan and around the world and introduces visitors to silk producing technologies which include live silkworms.

The first floor of the museum is divided into several zones consisting of: the Wonder Farm (which illustrates the life cycle of the silkworm), Hall and Library. The library contains over 5,000 books on the subject of raw silk, weaving and dyeing, designs, colors, accessories, manners and customs of people, statistics, etc. ( The books are in Japanese only.) There is a gift shop which offers numerous silk related products for purchase including silk scarves and other silk products, books and foods containing silk. The gift shop is located near the entrance of the building therefore visitors can shop there without actually having to pay an admission to the museum.

The second floor of the museum is devoted to the history of silk in Japan and displays several garments which were reproduced to represent the use of silk during various points in history. You will also find a range of modern kimonos and displays on how silk is woven and died.

The museum is open daily (except Mondays) from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM. It is closed on National Holidays and between December 28th -January 4th.   Admission is ¥500 for adults, ¥200 for students and ¥100 for young children.

The Yokohama Silk Museum is relatively close to the Yokohama Doll Museum (10 minutes on foot) making it easy to combine a visit to both locations during a day visit to Yokohama. To access the Silk Museum, use the Minatomirai Line (exit Nihon-odori Station). From that point, your destination is merely 5 minutes on foot.

Address:             Silk Center, 1, Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, 231-0023

Web page:         http://www.silkmuseum.or.jp/english_main/information/

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