Tomioka Silk Mill was the first silk production factory in Japan. It was established at the end of the Edo period when Japan began trade with the west. At the time of the Edo Period the most important Japanese export was raw silk. Because raw silk was produced by hand, not enough could be made to meet demand. The government set up a model factory equipped with modern silk producing machines from France to enable production of silk and to train local Japanese in these techniques. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.