Komyojimura joko shoshi jiken (光明寺村女工焼死事件)
Komyojimura joko shoshi jiken ("the incident in Komyoji-mura Village in which female factory workers perished by fire") refers to the fire that broke out in 1900 in a textile factory in the village of Komyoji-mura (the present-day city of Ichinomiya) in Haguri-gun County of Aichi Prefecture and killed 31 female factory workers.
Summary of the incident
At about three o'clock in the morning on January 23, 1900, a fire broke out in a textile factory in Komyoji-mura Village. Of the 49 female factory workers lodging on the second floor above the factory, 18 managed to escape but the remaining 31 were delayed in fleeing and were burned to death. The bodies of the female factory workers were so badly charred by the roaring flames that even blood relatives could not recognize them anymore.
The background of the incident
At that time, among the textile manufacturers located in the Owari region it was considered common sense to affix iron bars over the windows of the workers' dormitories and lock the doors (at night) so as to prevent the female workers from running away (to break their contracts). The factory in question also followed this then-commonsense practice, meaning that when the fire broke out the female workers could not escape, and thus the factory policy could be said to have invited just such a tragic disaster that did in fact strike.
The situation in the wake of the fire
This incident spurred the publication of the governmental report entitled 'Shokko jijo' (Conditions for Factory Workers), an investigation into the working environment of textile factories of the day. Moreover, the government used this incident as the impetus for revising the 'Kojo kishukusha kisoku' (Regulations for Factory Dormitories) in order to outlaw any dormitories that attempted to confine their workers.
A gravestone called 'Orihime no hi' (Tombstone of the Weavers) was erected in the Komyo-ji Temple cemetery to serve as the tombstone of the female factory workers who burned to death. Furthermore, some of the more influential inhabitants of the Haguri-gun region jointly raised the funds to erect a stone memorial in the city of Bisai, which had more victims of the fire than any other city or town.
In telling the negative history of 'Ichinomiya the Textile Town,' this incident represents the absolute nadir, a fact that led the Board of Education for the city of Ichinomiya to publish a supplementary reader for Middle School-level Social Studies entitled "Nobiyuku Ichinomiya" (Ichinomiya: the growing city).