Tochigi school’s silk study program wins award

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kinu Gimukyoiku School principal and students hold prizes given to the school in Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture, on Oct. 22.

OYAMA, Tochigi — An Oyama municipal elementary school that provides in-depth studies about the local traditional industry of making silk cloth has been awarded a prize by the Dainippon Silk Foundation for helping to carry on the culture of silkworm raising and silk fabrics.

Kinu Gimukyoiku (Silk Compulsory Education) School, a combined elementary and junior high school, has become the first school in Tochigi Prefecture to receive the foundation’s “encouragement award for learning about silk.” The prize is awarded to elementary schools and other entities that offer studies of silk fabrics and culture for 10 years or more.

This year, the Kinu school was one of two selected to receive the prize on Oct. 21.

The school opened four years ago, following the merger of four elementary and junior high schools in Oyama’s Kinu district. It continued a “hometown study program” that one of the schools — Fukura Elementary School — started during the 2012 academic year. The students learn about the silk cloth production process, which due to the aging population and other factors is suffering from a shortage of people willing and able to keep the industry alive.

With the help of farmers, traditional craftsmen and other locals, children from the first to sixth grades study the entire process in different stages. For example, first- and second-graders learn about sericulture, and fourth-graders study spinning silk into yarn. Students in the seventh to ninth grades take a deep dive into silk culture. The cocoons produced at the school are of an excellent quality, and have won prizes at shows, one of the criteria for which the school was awarded the prize.

“I’d like to try doing lots of different things, like weaving,” said a 12-year-old sixth-grader at the school.

A ninth-grader’s grandparents had been silk producers. “I saw the weaving they did, and thought it was amazing,” said the 14-year-old female student. “I’m glad our study program has received an award.”

The school’s principal is proud of the silk studies program. “We are able to keep teaching our students about their hometown thanks to the cooperation of many people in this region,” he said. “I want to continue showing these children the splendor of this traditional culture.”