What will today bring?
Today I am in Isobe, Annaka-shi Gunma Prefecture. I have no commitments today-but plenty of possibilities.
There is a public onsen across the street here-a definite possibility and open from 10 AM to 9 PM. I saw a vegetable market along the walk to our stay location but when I walked back it was closed. Will probably check that out later. Some local ramen may be eaten. It is Sunday so who knows.
I have some reading, some watercolors, and the general area to check out. This area is known as an onsen (hot springs/spa) area and apparently the onsen symbol universally used throughout Japan originated in this area from a 17th century map denoting a local spa site. The Japanese government attempted to “update” this symbol in 2016 in preparation for the 2020 Olympics but was met with stiff resistance across the country and backed down.
The Usui River runs through and many onsen operate throughout the area. We stayed in an onsen hotel near here during the tour that was enjoyed by all. It was convenient to several of the places we visited in Gunma Prefecture.
From the Isobe location, the Silk Study Tour visited a sericulture farming couple-Nobue Higashi and her husband. I’ve written about our visits here in the past but every time I visit I pick up new information.
For example, the artificial chow that is fed to newly hatched larvae is made of two ingredients-mulberry leaf and soy bean meal. Previously, I thought it was completely from mulberry leaf. I have also read that in some cases agar is added. Most larger sericultures order silkworms that are hatched and raised in a clean facility and delivered to them at the beginning of 4th instar. They then finish raising them to cocoon stage feeding solely mulberry leaf.
During our visit to Nobue and Wataru’s sericulture farm, we fed the early stage fourth instar silkworms branches of mulberry leaf from their nearby field. They gave us a demonstration of their cutting and storage process. It was raining so the mulberry leaf had to dry before giving it to the silkworms.
Following this visit, we moved to TonCara to experience silk reeling and mawata (spreading the cocoon for yarn making or for other uses) making.
A lovely lunch was served before we left and we were on our way to visit the Tomioka Silk Mill-a World Heritage Site.
Today I am recovering from a workshop work day at Nobue and Wataru’s sericulture farm. A total of 45,000 silkworms were moved into the upstairs cocooning space. It was quite the physical job! Next post will cover that process.