Gunma S I L K

Gunma S I L K
From the end of the Onin War (1467 - 1477) there ensued a time of change during which the silk industry underwent a decline. Around 1600, however, it resurged and when in October of that year Lord Tokugawa stood to fight Lord Ishida at Sekigahara, his soldiers carried silk banners produced in Kiryu into the battle. It is said that on one day some 2,410 silk banners were brought to the grounds of Tenmangu Shrine to be blessed before they were carried into battle.

After this time, during the Kanbun-Enpo-era (1661-1680) many people began to work in factories and came to Kiryu from Kyoto, Osaka, Edo and other distant areas. As a result of the steady growth in the silk industry, the Silk Market was opened in Kiryu in February, 1738. In that same year, mechanized looms began to be employed and new types of textiles were produced. As for the silk market, it is difficult to express in words the great prosperity it met with. Even today people remember the booming days of Kiryu's silk market.

With continued success year after year, Kiryu began to produce silk of increasingly high quality and the city grew in fame. Given this background, it is not hard to understand why the local people long for the days of the prosperous silk industry and are eager to preserve for posterity the events of those times. The commemorative illustration of the Kiryu Sayaichi (Silk Market) is an attempt to show graphically the circumstances of that period.

The Kiryu Sayaichi Silk Market illustration was painted in Meiji 27 (1894) by Oide Toko, a Nanga painter from Kiryu, and the essay above which accompanies the painting is by Kojima Haruhiko, the Mayor of Kiryu at the time who was also a poet.